by Valorie H. Rice
Senior Specialist, Business Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released metropolitan area employment and unemployment data for February on April 6. Over the year, unemployment rates were lower in 296 of 387 metropolitan areas. The good news in this release was that Yuma did not have the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.; El Centro, California retained that title (though Yuma remains second). The better news was that Yuma’s February unemployment rate of 15.1% was down 3.9 percentage points from the same time last year.  The rest of Arizona’s metro areas have unemployment rates in the single-digits: Flagstaff, 6.0%; Lake Havasu City-Kingman, 7.1%; Phoenix, 4.6%; Prescott, 5.0%; Sierra Vista-Douglas, 6.4%; and Tucson with 4.8%.  

The trade balance for U.S. international trade in goods and services was $47.1 billion in February, $1.2 larger than in January. Year-to-date the deficit increased $10.8 billion over the same period last year. Both exports and imports were up in February; however, imports increased $3.0 billion to $225.1 billion compared to the $1.8 billion increase in exports which stand at $178.1 billion. 

The U.S. gained 215,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in March according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation release on April 1. Sectors adding the most jobs in March were retail trade, construction, and health care. Manufacturing and mining were the only sectors to drop employment. The unemployment rate for the nation was 5.0% in March, which has remained basically the same since August.

Phoenix house prices rose 6.1% over the year in January according to the most recent S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices released March 29. This was higher than the U.S. national figure of 5.4% or either the 10-city composite (5.1%) or 20-city composite (5.7%). The metro with the highest 12-month change for January was Portland at 11.8% while the lowest was Chicago at 2.1%.

There were 3,978 initial unemployment claims in Arizona the week ending March 26, compared to 3,658 the week before. The four-week average, which smooths out volatility, was fairly stable at 3,829 compared to 3,745 the week prior. Continued claims in Arizona were 26,138, which was 9.0% lower than this time a year ago. Nationally, initial applications for unemployment benefits decreased to a seasonally adjusted 267,000 for the week ending April 2, while the four-week average increased slightly to 266,750.  

Hands and calculator photo courtesy Shutterstock.
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