By Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services

Arizona’s employment is expected to grow slower in the next two years than it has in the past two.

New figures Thursday from the state Office of Economic Opportunity project Arizona will add 138,553 jobs between the second quarter of last year and the second quarter of 2018. That translates to 2.4 percent growth on an annualized basis.

By contrast, the similar figure for the prior two-year period was 2.6 percent a year.

Even the Phoenix metro area, which consists of Maricopa and Pinal counties, which grows faster than most of the rest of the state, is seeing some cooling, with a projected 2.8 percent annual growth in the number of jobs. That’s down one-tenth of a percentage point from the prior period.

There are indications that Pima County will finally emerge from its employment doldrums. The state agency figures the area will add 10,068 jobs in the projected period.

But if that doesn’t sound like much, consider the fact that the Office of Economic Opportunity figures Pima County added just 4,772 jobs in the prior two-year period for a tepid growth rate of 0.7 percent annually.

Things look a little better for the remaining 13 counties, with a projected job growth of 12,813 over the two years, or 1.5 percent a year.

One significant finding is that the biggest jump in employment will be among “non-store retailers.” These are the Amazons of the world, companies selling products to consumers online.

The estimate is that sector will grow by 4,752 jobs. But from a pure percentage figure, that computes at a 23.8 percent increase from current employment levels.

From the perspective of pure number of jobs, the state’s bars and restaurants will add 15,197 workers. That’s a 6.8 percent growth rate over current levels.

This sector of the economy has among the lowest wages.

At the other extreme, the high-paying manufacturing sector is predicted to grow by fewer than 1,600 jobs.

But at least that’s growth: The state’s mining industry, already tiny at about 11,500 jobs, actually is predicted to shed about 500 of them.

Thursday’s report also showed the state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate for January remained unchanged from December at 5.0 percent. By contrast, the national rate increased a tenth of a point to 4.8 percent.

Overall the total number of people employed in January was 56,700 fewer than the prior month. But that still is nearly 54,000 more than the same period last year when the state jobless rate was 5.5 percent.

Private-sector employment slid by 43,000 month over month.

Those job losses were pretty much across the board, including 14,800 in retail trade, 16,400 in professional and business services, and 400 in manufacturing. Even the leisure and hospitality industry shed 3,000 jobs.



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