by Valorie Hanni Rice
Senior Specialist, Business Information

The 2014 American Community Survey 1-year estimates were released September 17, providing statistics on over 40 social, economic and housing topics for U.S. communities with populations of 65,000 or more.  Here are a few highlights for the state. The median household income in Arizona was $50,068 – $1,558 higher than the year before. Along with larger incomes, households were also more likely to contain a computer, 85.5% in 2014 vs. 84.4% in 2013, and have a broadband subscription (75.5% vs. 73.9%). There were fewer households with children under 18 years of age, 30.8%, down from 31.6%, and more households with people 65 years and over, 30.3% vs. 28.9%. The percent of population with health insurance coverage went up to 86.4% from 82.9% in 2013, with both private insurance and public coverage increasing. Although Arizona made gains in the percent of population with health insurance, the state has the third highest rate of the percent of children without health insurance (10.0%). The 2010-2014 American Community Survey five-year statistics, available for all geographic areas regardless of population size, will be released on Dec. 10.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service released the results of the 2014 Organic Survey on September 17. Arizona had 61 farms with a total value of organic agricultural products sold of $93,465,000 in 2014. This pales in comparison to California, the top producer of organic agricultural products, which had 2,805 farms and $2,231,241,000 in total products sold. The top 10 states in organic sales were California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wisconsin, Texas, New York, Colorado, Michigan, and Iowa – Arizona was 11th. Nationally, sales were $5.5 billion, translating into a 72% increase in organic product sales from the 14,093 certified and exempt organic farms in the U.S. since 2008. The top five commodities in organic sales nationally are milk, eggs, broiler chickens, lettuce, and apples.

Unemployment rates went down in 29 states for August, 10 states had increases and 11 had no change. Arizona was among the states with an increase in the unemployment rate, moving up to 6.3% compared to 5.1% for the U.S. Nebraska and North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rates in the nation with 2.8% and 2.9%, respectively. West Virginia had the highest with 7.6%.

August employment data for Arizona was released September 17. Annual job growth for the state was 2.1% in August, mirroring that of the nation. The unemployment rate in Arizona moved up to 6.3% compared to 5.1% for the U.S. for the month. The private sector accounted for all job gains over the year with education & health services and professional & business services the two leading industries. Phoenix was the only metro area to have higher job growth than the state as a whole with 2.4% over the year. This was followed by 1.8% in Prescott, 1.4% in Flagstaff, and 0.9% in Tucson while Yuma (-1.0%), Sierra Vista-Douglas (-1.2%), and Lake Havasu City-Kingman (-1.3%) all had declines in employment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released first quarter county employment and wage data on September 17. The report covered employment and wage changes for the 342 largest counties in the U.S. between first quarter 2014 and first quarter 2015. Utah County, Utah had the largest percent increase in employment at 6.7%. This was better than the U.S. at 2.1% or either Maricopa at 3.0% or Pima at 0.8% (the only two Arizona counties reported). Olmsted County, Minnesota had the largest percent increase in average weekly wage at 11.7%, far outpacing the nation at 2.1%. Maricopa (0.9%) and Pima (0.0%) had basically no change in average weekly wage over the year for the first quarter.

Initial unemployment claims in Arizona rose slightly for the week ending September 5 to 3,972 compared to 3,797 the week before, while the four-week average decreased slightly to 3,945.  The U.S. had a sizable decrease in the number of initial jobless claims for the week ending September 12, moving down 11,000 to 264,000. The four-week moving average was also lower at 272,500. Unemployment applications have now been under 300,000 for six months.

The Consumer Price Index decreased 0.1% in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics September 16 release. This was the first monthly decrease in consumer prices since January, caused mainly by a large dip in gasoline prices. The annual inflation rate was 0.2% in August before seasonal adjustment.

Hands and calculator photo courtesy Shutterstock.

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