Arizona’s unemployment rate fell to 3.6% in February, well below pre-pandemic levels and the lowest since 2007, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
the last digits are part of a steady decline in unemployment since the start of the pandemic, when unemployment in the state soared to 13.9% in April 2020. The February rate for Arizona was down from 6% a year earlier, and down slightly from January’s 3.7%.
The state was also below the national average of 3.8% for February, although new BLS figures released Friday showed that national unemployment the rate slipped to 3.6% in March. State unemployment numbers for March aren’t expected until at least next week.
Andrew Sugrue, deputy director of policy and advocacy at the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, attributed the steady improvement in the employment picture to the federal government’s aggressive economic COVID-19 relief during the pandemic.
“A lot of that is really attributable to the extraordinary actions the federal government has taken in response to the pandemic…specifically the CARES Act and the US Bailout Act,” Sugrue said.
“These pieces of legislation really gave the economy the boost it needed at the time and allowed this recovery to continue at a much faster pace than the Great Recession,” he said. declared.
the CARES Act, enacted under the Trump administration, provided unemployment compensation and stimulus checks to those who lost their jobs in the first year of the pandemic, as well as emergency support for businesses affected by the pandemic. The American Safety plan The law, created by the Biden administration, extended unemployment benefits and added another stimulus check, among other benefits.
Sugrue said the drop in the unemployment rate is happening for “the right reasons,” which include a steady growth in the labor force. Since growing from 3.47 million in March 2020 to 3.39 million in April, Arizona’s labor force has grown every month, reaching 3.54 million in February, according to BLS figures.
“Over the past few months, the labor force and unemployment in Arizona have been growing and unemployment has been steadily declining for the right reasons,” he said. “We have a fairly consistent labor force participation rate, so it’s very encouraging that unemployment appears to be falling because people are finding jobs, not because they’re leaving the workforce.”
Sugrue tempered the good news of a drop in the unemployment rate by noting that not all industries have recovered from the effects of the pandemic. He said industries like the civil service, hospitality and education are still suffering from vacancies created by COVID-19.
Additionally, the pandemic has hit some workers harder than others, Sugrue said. Minority workers have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19, and they don’t see the levels of recovery that white workers are experiencing.
“We know that public health and the economic crisis have disproportionately affected low-income workers, workers of color and those who cared for children, especially women,” Sugrue said.
In December 2021, the nationwide white unemployment rate was 3.9% compared to a black unemployment rate of 7.1%, according to data from the Brookings Institution. For this reason, Sugrue said, much more needs to be done to help everyone fully recover economically from the pandemic.
“While the trends have been positive for all groups lately, we still need to look at the disproportionality in terms of who’s benefiting the most right now,” Sugrue said.
Story by Reagan Priest, Cronkite News