by Valorie H. Rice
Senior Specialist, Business Information

December employment rose 292,000 nationally according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation release January 8th. Industries gaining the most employment for the month were professional and business services, construction, health care, and food services and drinking places. Mining continued its downward trend. The unemployment rate remained at 5.0% for the third month in a row.

Bankruptcies in Arizona were down 13.9% in 2015 compared to 2014. Chapter 7 (business or individual liquidation) declined 15.8% in 2015, while Chapter 11 (business reorganization) declined 5.3% and Chapter 13 (individual debt adjustment) was down 1.1%.  The Yuma office, handling La Paz, Mohave, and Yuma counties, decreased the most in overall bankruptcies from one year to the next with a drop of 18.1%. The Phoenix office (Apache, Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, Navajo, and Yavapai) was down 14.9% and the Tucson office (Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Pinal, and Santa Cruz) was down 9.4%. There were only two counties that had a larger number of bankruptcies filed in 2015 than the previous year, and they were Apache and Greenlee.

There were 2,583 initial unemployment claims in Arizona the week ending December 26, down 1,262 from the week prior. The four-week moving average was steady at 3,592. Continuing claims in Arizona were 25,321, the lowest they have been since April 2007. Nationally, filings for unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 277,000 for the week ending January 2. The four-week average, which smooths out volatility, decreased to 275,750.  

The U.S. trade deficit decreased in November to $42.4 billion compared to $44.6 billion in October. Both exports ($182.2 billion) and imports ($224.6 billion) were lower for the month, with exports decreasing $1.6 billion and imports moving down by $3.8 billion. 

Phoenix home prices rose 5.7% over the year in October according to the December 29 S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index release. This was slightly above the 5.2% change for the nation, but middle of the road for the 20-city composite that makes up the Home Price Index. Denver, Portland, and San Francisco all posted a 10.9% annual increase in home prices for the month, topping the index, while Chicago was on the low end with a 1.3% increase. 

The Census Bureau released 2015 state population estimates on December 22. Arizona now ranks as the 14th most populous state, passing up Massachusetts which is now just behind Arizona. According to the Census, Arizona’s population grew by 1.5% in the last year, slightly higher than the official Arizona population estimate from the AZ Department of Administration, which pegged growth at 1.4% for 2015. Voting-age population for each state is also available with the annual state population estimates. In 2015, Arizona was the 13th youngest state, down from 11th in 2014 (see article).

Real GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.0% in the third quarter of 2015 bolstered by consumer spending. This was not as high as the 3.9% posted for the second quarter, but better than the advance estimates for the quarter.  The first look at annual GDP data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis will be released on January 29.  

State personal income grew 1.4% for Arizona in the third quarter 2015. This was just better than the U.S. at 1.3% and placed Arizona 10th in over-the-quarter growth among all states according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis December 21 release. 

The Arizona Department of Administration Employment and Population Statistics Division released July 1, 2015 population estimates for Arizona, its counties, and incorporated places on December 15. The state population grew 1.4% between 2014 and 2015. There were five counties that grew at the same rate or higher than the state: Pinal (2.6%), Maricopa (1.7%), Coconino (1.6%), Santa Cruz (1.4%), and Yuma (1.4%).  Two counties lost population over the year: La Paz (-0.1) and Cochise (-0.4%). 

Hands and calculator photo courtesy Shutterstock.
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