/ Modified aug 17, 2012 7:42 p.m.

AZ Week: Economy Takes Baby Steps

Job growth slow, steady; infrastructure attention needed, economist says


Arizona's economy is continuing to grow, although at a slow rate, two economists say.

The July unemployment report released Thursday showed joblessness at 8.3 percent, compared with 8.2 percent in each of the three previous months. A summer decline in the workforce is typical for Arizona, said Aruna Murthy, director of economic analysis for the Office of Employment and Population Statistics.

"July is typically a month of losses, and we did see losses in this month as well," Murthy said in an Arizona Week interview. "But what differentiated this July was some of the losses in the private sector were lower than what we have seen historically."

Murthy said the positive news behind the unemployment percentage is a growth trend.

"This is five months in a row that (employment in) the private sector over-the-year growth has gone up," she said. "The number for July was 2.6 percent over-the-year growth in the private sector, and we have seen this month after month."

Economist Dennis Hoffman, a professor at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business, agreed, saying that paying attention to the trend is more important than the singular unemployment statistic.

"Trends in that number are important, and what I take out of this is not month-to-month small movement," Hoffman said, also in an Arizona Week interview. "It's movement over the year, and the movements have been very good, in a downward direction over the last year."

At the same time that the growth has been steady, Murthy and Hoffman said, it has been slow.

"I'm not seeing anything in the numbers that point me in the direction of things getting worse," Murthy said. "The losses are getting fewer. Overall, the economic environment is improving."

Hoffman said the state has put into place a good economic development plan, but more is needed to round out the effort.

"You can't just do great economic development and have low, business-friendly tax rates," he said. "It's about infrastructure. It's about education. It's about skilled workforces."

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