Arizona's retail sales for July best in decade
2004 -- $3.68 billion
2005 -- $4.30 billion
2006 -- $4.58 billion
2007 -- $4.56 billion
2008 -- $4.09 billion
2009 -- $3.59 billion
2010 -- $3.56 billion
2011 -- $3.83 billion
2012 -- $4.10 billion
2013 -- $4.47 billion
Figures represent sales reported to Arizona Department of Revenue in July, reflecting on June sales.
-- Source: Arizona Department of Revenue
Arizona's economy is showing some real signs of life, with retail sales reported to the state in July being the best in nearly a decade, a bounty that the city of Yuma didn't share in at least for the month.
New figures from the Arizona Department of Revenue put retail sales at $4.47 billion statewide. The last time it was that high was in 2007, before the real estate bubble burst and the state and nation headed into recession.
However, the city of Yuma actually had a 3.8 percent decline in retail sales activity reported in July compared to the same month in 2012. The number is reflected in the amount of retail sales tax revenue collected by the Arizona Department of Revenue on behalf of the city.
But that number may be a little misleading. Yuma's decline in retail sales reported in July comes after having been up for several months in a row, said Pat Wicks, the city's financial director. And Yuma's retail sales tax revenue for the month is up 10 percent from July 2011.
"Things fluctuate," Wicks said. "But there is an upward trend overall."
The same could be said for the city's sales tax revenue for construction activity.
That was down 35 percent in July from the same period in 2012, Wicks said. However, it is up 13 percent from July 2011.
"There's still good growth in construction ... there's still a lot of construction," he said. "It's just that 2012 was a boom year."
That boom was driven at least in part by some large government projects that year, including construction of the recently completed federal courthouse and the building of several hangars at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, he said.
Overall, he said, Yuma's sales tax revenue in all categories for July was down 2.9 percent from July 2012. He didn't immediately have data available to compare the current sales activity to 2007.
The statewide numbers, which reflect what people were buying in June, show a particular jump in sales of furniture and other home furnishings.
Economist Marshall Vest of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona said the statewide retail sales figures are more than just good. The increase actually is running above what has been the improving trend since the end of the recession.
However, the economy in Arizona overall has not quite recovered to its pre-recession levels. Total retail spending reported in July - which is based on sales in June - is still slightly below what it was the same month in 2007.
This new report also shows growth of just 1.6 percent in year-over-year sales at bars and restaurants.
But Elaine Smith, an economist at the Department of Revenue, said the spending at those establishments -- nearly $854 million -- should not be seen as a disappointment.
She said July 2012 happened to be an exceptionally strong month. And the latest numbers are still 10 percent higher than 2011.
Less clear is what's happening in the lodging industry. On paper, revenues from hotels and motels took a 22 percent dive from the prior year.
Smith said, though, that reflects a one-time adjustment. Factoring out that change puts the year-over-year change back into positive territory by about 4 percent.
Yuma's revenues from the hospitality industry reflect the statewide numbers, with a 3 percent increase for restaurants and bars and a 29 percent decrease in the accommodation industry, Wicks said.
The most surprising thing overall in the latest retail sales report, said Dennis Hoffman of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, is the sharp increase in consumer spending despite the fact the state's jobless rate remains at 8 percent, more than double what it was before the recession.
"We're growing retail at a 9 percent clip with very little growth in workers,'' he said. "But the people that are working, guess what? They must be buying cars, they're buying furniture and home furnishings, they're buying clothing and accessories. They tend to be shopping at a pretty good clip.''