By Eric Jay Toll for The Arizona Builder’s Exchange
Despite a dip in public education employment with the end of the school year, Arizona’s jobless rate remained unchanged at 8.2 percent for May. This is the first month Arizona equaled the U.S. national unemployment rate since June 2008—ending four years of higher-than-national-average unemployment—according the Arizona Department of Administration’s monthly Arizona Workforce Employment Report. Although flat, Arizona’s rate represents significant job gains over the 9.1 percent May 2011 adjusted rate.
Job boosts in the private sector, 6,700 new jobs, were offset by 14,800 government jobs disappearing. This number is affected by the seasonal losses in state and local public education. This year, the numbers were higher because of community college and university schedules.
Private sector job gains topped the ten year average (900 new jobs per month) and above the pre-recession ten-year average of 4,200 jobs per month.
Trade, transportation and utilities, and construction were the job-adding leaders. Most of the 3,700 trade jobs were in retail (2,600). On the construction side, 2,900 new jobs were added in May, well over the pre-recession average of 2,100 jobs in May. Most of these jobs were in the special trades (2,700). This is construction’s third consecutive month of above average job gains.
Arizona’s gains run contrary to the national trend reporting 30 states losing construction jobs compared to 2011. Shrinking public construction dollars is driving this trend. Although ranking sixth from the top in percentage of construction job gains, Arizona ranked third behind Texas and California in the number of new jobs generated—11,000 new Arizona construction jobs compared to May 2011.
North Carolina, Illinois, and Maryland lost the most construction jobs in the past year.
The Associated General Contractors expressed concern that the construction employment landscape will continue to weaken if Congress doesn’t enact new federal transportation legislation before the June 30 deadline, which could induce “tens of thousands of construction layoffs” nationwide, the association said.
“As the public sector continues to restrain growth in construction demand, we will continue to see weak reports like this,” Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, said in a statement. “There isn’t enough demand for private sector structures to compensate for dwindling investments in highways, bridges, water systems and public buildings.”