Yuma County jobless rate drops in August
So does number in the labor force
On paper, Yuma County's latest unemployment rate announced Thursday by the state Department of Administration looks like good news, declining from 31.4 percent in July to 29.9 percent in August.
But the broader picture actually shows a slight drop in the number of people employed, with 64,939 people working in August versus 65,310 the month before.
The larger change in the employment picture, though, is a significant decline in the number of people in the labor force in August as compared with July. That seems to bear out that the area's jobless rate is linked more closely to a fluctuation in the number of people who are looking for work than any significant job gains or losses.
In August, there were 92,598 people in the labor force, 27,659 of them looking for jobs. In comparison, there were 95,190 people in the labor force in July, 29,880 of them unemployed. The labor force had been running about 85,500 for the winter months, then jumped to more than 91,000 in May when the unemployment rate also rose by almost 3 percentage points.
Patrick Goetz, business services officer for Yuma Private Industry Council, said activity has been brisk at the agency's three One Stop Career Centers. In July, 2,909 people visited the centers. In August that number jumped to 4,238. In addition, an estimated 3,300 job seekers turned out for a job fair hosted by YPIC on Aug. 29.
He also noted that so far in 2012, YPIC has tracked 453 layoffs by 13 different companies.
Meanwhile, state economists say Arizona will continue to add jobs for the balance of the decade.
But for a lot of them, the main qualification may be the ability to say, “May I help you?''
The projection comes from the state Department of Administration as it announced Arizona added about 9,000 private sector jobs between July and August. But that wasn't enough to move the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate needle off of 8.3 percent.
Aruna Murthy, the agency's director of economic analysis, said the state has managed to post year-over-year gains in employment exceeding 2 percent for the past three months, faster than the national average. She also noted that Arizona's private sector employment has been on the rise for six months.
However, Murthy said, nearly three-fourths of the jobs Arizona will create between now and the end of the decade will be positions that require only a high school education — or even less.
Long term, Murthy said the real growth will be in the service trades, the jobs where a college education is not required — and the jobs that pay less than the median wage.
Wage figures for Arizona in 2010, the most recent available, show those jobs pay a median of just $10.12 an hour. That comes out to slightly more than $21,000 a year — assuming the jobs are available year-round.
By contrast, the median wage for the entire state is $15.89 an hour, or about $33,000 a year.
A separate Census Bureau report showed that the number of people in Arizona living in poverty jumped half a percentage point between 2010 and 2011, to slightly more than 1.2 million. That represents 19 percent of the state, compared with 15.1 percent nationally.
Still, Murthy said that 2-plus percent annual job growth is nothing to sneeze at, given how much faster it is than the rest of the country as a whole.
“We at least have jobs. If it comes to a fine line of feeding your family ... if it were me, I would take a job for a low pay until I can find something better.''
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services, contributed to this report.