by Valorie H. Rice
Senior Specialist, Business Information

The U.S. added only 38,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in May, for the lowest monthly change in employment since September 2010. Job gains had averaged 116,000 per month over the previous three months, according to the Employment Situation release on June 3. Health care was the sector with the most job gains. Mining continued to lose employment, and information numbers were down due mainly to a long strike in that industry. The unemployment rate for the nation lowered to 4.7% in May from 5.0% in April.

The U.S. trade deficit was $37.4 billion in April compared to the revised March deficit of $35.5 billion in March. Both imports and exports grew over the month. Imports increased $4.5 billion to $220.2 billion, while exports increased $2.6 billion to $182.8 billion for April. Year-to-date, the deficit in goods and services was $8.1 billion lower than the same period last year.    

Arizona initial unemployment claims were 4,400 the week ending May 21. The four-week average, which smooths out volatility, was 4,531 compared to 4,952 the week prior. Nationally, initial applications for unemployment benefits decreased to a seasonally adjusted 267,000 for the week ending May 28. The four-week average also decreased slightly to 276,750.  

Arizona’s seven metropolitan areas were among the 269 out of 387 metro areas in the nation that had lower unemployment rates in April compared to a year ago. The Yuma unemployment rate was 18.7% in April compared to 22.3% in April 2015. It is still the second highest rate in the country, behind El Centro, California and one of only seven metro areas in the nation with rates at 10% or higher. The unadjusted unemployment rate in April for other Arizona metros: Lake Havasu city-Kingman 6.9%, Sierra Vista-Douglas 6.5%, Flagstaff 5.7%, Tucson 5.0%, Prescott 4.9%, and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale 4.7%.

Home prices were up 5.6% in Phoenix over the year for March, a bit above the national increase of 5.2%, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices released May 31. Phoenix home prices are slowing down slightly, as year over year appreciation was 6.1% in January, and 6.0% in February. Three of the metropolitan areas making up the 20-city composite had double-digit increases – Portland, Seattle, and Denver.  Portland had the highest 12-month change for February at 12.3%, while Washington, D.C. had the lowest at 1.5%.

Real GDP was revised slightly upward to an annual rate of 0.8% for first quarter 2016, based on the second estimate released May 27. Real GDP had increased 1.4% in the fourth quarter 2015. The next estimate for GDP will be released June 28.

The first quarter 2016 marked the nineteenth consecutive quarter of increased house prices in the U.S. according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The House Price Index (HPI) released May 25 indicated that house prices rose in every state between the first quarter 2015 and first quarter 2016. Arizona house prices appreciated 7.4% over the year, higher than the U.S. at 5.7%. Oregon was the state with the largest change in house prices with an 11.8% increase over the year using the Purchase-Only HPI. Metro area house price data are available using the All-transactions HPI, which includes both purchases and refinance mortgages. Here are the one-year price changes for Arizona metros for the first quarter 2016: Phoenix 8.0%, Flagstaff 7.4%, Lake Havasu City-Kingman 6.5%, Prescott 5.9%, Tucson 3.9%, Yuma 3.3%, and Sierra Vista-Douglas with -0.9%.

Hands and calculator photo courtesy Shutterstock.
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