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New signs state's economy is improving

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – New figures show the state's jobless rate dropped two-tenths of a point last month, to 9.1 percent. Overall Arizona added more than 26,000 jobs. While many of those were public school employees returning to work as expected, private sector employment was up by 41-hundred. That's the first month-over-month gain for a September in private employment since 2006. Aruna Murthy, director of economic analysis for the state Department of Administration, said this does not appear to be an aberration. She said employment last month is also stronger than a year ago.

(All the sectors over-the-year numbers are doing very well. And if you combine them together we have had a net gain of 51,600. So the over-the-year picture certainly looks way better than the same time last year looked.)

For example, she noted that Arizona's employment in the leisure and hospitality industry is 4.3 percent higher now than it was a year earlier. The national growth rate is 1.4 percent. The health care sector grew by 5.4 percent, versus 2.5 percent nationally. And the number of people working in manufacturing is up by 2.9 percent annually, against a 1.6 percent nationwide figure. Murthy said there are other indications the economy is improving, including a decline in first-time jobless claims. But Murthy said it's harder to say whether the long-term unemployed -- those whose benefits already have expired -- are having any better luck getting jobs. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.