by Valorie H. Rice
Senior Specialist, Business Information

The Census Bureau released 2015 population estimates for counties and metropolitan/micropolitan areas on March 24. The Phoenix metro area had the 4th largest number increase in population for the nation, but metropolitan areas in Texas and Florida dominated the list of highest growth areas. Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth were the top two metros for numerical population gains, while The Villages, a Florida metropolitan area just west of Orlando was the fastest-growing for the third year in a row with a population increase of 4.3%.

Real GDP increased at an annual rate of 1.4% in the 4th quarter 2015, which was higher than earlier estimate of 1.0%.  The higher numbers were primarily due to consumer spending. Along with the 4th quarter estimate, the release covered annual GDP, which grew at a 2.4% pace in 2015, the same rate as growth in 2014.

Arizona was among 22 states with a decrease in the unemployment rate for February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics regional and state employment and unemployment report released March 25.  The unemployment rate in Arizona was 5.5% for February, down 0.1% from the month before. The U.S. unemployment rate, at 4.9%, was unchanged from January.  New Hampshire and South Dakota shared the lowest unemployment rate among states at 2.7%, while Alaska had the highest at 6.6%.

Arizona’s year-over-year job growth remained at 3.0% in February, matching January’s figure. This was better than the 1.9% posted for the U.S. in February. Education and health services was the top employment gaining sector over the year while natural resources/mining and government both lost employment. Most Arizona metros matched or had better over the year growth than the nation, though some were still faltering: Prescott, 4.0%; Phoenix, 3.5%; Tucson 2.9%; Flagstaff, 1.9%; Lake Havasu City-Kingman, 1.3%; Yuma, 0.7%, and Sierra Vista-Douglas, -0.6%.

State personal income for 2015 was released March 24 along with the 4th quarter state personal income release. Personal income in Arizona rose 4.6% in 2015. Using the Arizona Dept. of Administration 2015 population estimate, Arizona’s per capita personal income for 2015 was $39,471, ranking it 41st among all states.

There were 3,767 initial unemployment claims in Arizona the week ending March 12, down 147 from the week prior. The four-week average, which smooths out volatility, remained stable at 3,664 compared to 3,617 the week before. Nationally, initial applications for unemployment benefits increased to a seasonally adjusted 265,000 for the week ending March 19. This has been the longest stretch since 1973 of claims remaining below 300,000. The U.S. four-week average was 259,750.  

Unemployment rates for veterans went down in 2015 compared to a year earlier, according to the Employment Situation of Veterans report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released March 22. The unemployment rate for all veterans in the U.S. was 4.6% in 2015, lower than the national average. Unemployment for Gulf War-era II veterans (those serving any time since 2001) shrank to 5.8% compared to 7.2% in 2014. In Arizona, the unemployment rate for veterans was 3.7% in 2015, far below that of nonveterans.

The consumer price index fell 0.2% in February on a seasonally adjusted basis. Declining gasoline prices were once again the primary reason for the decrease in the CPI, offsetting increased prices for food and other items. The annual inflation rate increased 1.0% before seasonal adjustment.

Producer prices fell 0.2% in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the March 15 Bureau of Labor Statistics release.  Final demand goods were down 0.6% while final demand services were flat. Producer prices were unchanged over the 12-month period.

Hands and calculator photo courtesy Shutterstock.
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