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Arizona Unemployment Rate Up Slightly In October

The Arizona unemployment rate rose to 4.7 in October, up slightly from 4.6 in September.

Numbers released Thursday from the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity show the percent of Arizonans unemployed and looking for work is identical to what it was a year ago. And it remains a full percentage point above the national average.

Doug Walls, the agency's research administrator said the state continues to add jobs, so he credits the stagnation to more people moving to Arizona.

One particularly bright spot is the increase in the state's manufacturing employment, driven largely by companies that make computer and electronic parts. In fact, the number of people working in this sector is 10.9 percent higher than a year ago, the best year-over-year bump since 1990.

What makes these numbers even more impressive is that one out of every seven new jobs in this sector added nationally in the past year was in Arizona.

Construction employment remains strong with a demand for new housing  —including new homes — even with Millennials often less interested in home ownership as they are getting married and having children later.

"It's not that they're not doing it,'' Walls said.

"They are eventually buying homes, they are eventually getting married, having kids,'' he continued. "It might just be taking them a little bit longer.''

The weak spot in the economy remains the retail sector where employment has grown just two-tenths of a percent in the past year. And there are no signs that's going to get better.

Walls cited national data which show that online retail sales, which constituted just 4 percent of the market at the beginning of 2009, now is approaching 10 percent.

"Brick and mortar' retail in Arizona is having to compete more and more with online retailers,'' he said. "We're going to continue to see retail employment with slower growth than we've seen in the past.''

News Business
Claire Caulfield was a reporter and Morning Edition producer from 2015 to 2019.