by Valorie H. Rice
Senior Specialist, Business Information

Real GDP grew at an annual rate of 0.7% in the first quarter 2017. Real GDP had grown at a rate of 2.1% in the fourth quarter 2016. The advance estimate for first quarter GDP was released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on April 28. Another estimate based on more complete data will be released May 26.

Phoenix home prices rose 5.3% year-over-year in February according to the S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller Indices released April 25. This was below the national rate of 5.8%. The metro area with the highest one-year change continued to be Seattle at 12.2% (which has been in the top 2 since January 2016), while New York prices rose the least at 4.1%.

There were 6,757 initial unemployment claims in Arizona for the week ending April 8, an increase of over 2,000 from the week before, as is typical for the first part of April. The four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility, was also higher at 4,761 compared to 4,008 the week before. Continued claims for Arizona were 6.7% lower than the same time a year ago. Unemployment benefit claims nationally were 244,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending April 15, up 10,000 from the week before. The four-week moving average, however, dropped to 243,000.  

Arizona job growth was at 2.1% in March, adding 56,000 jobs over the year. Nationally, annual job growth for March was 1.5%. The industry growing the fastest in Arizona over the last 12 months was leisure and hospitality, while mining, information, government, and other services all lost jobs. The unemployment rate for the state was 5.0% in March, down slightly from 5.1% in February.  Phoenix lead Arizona metros in job growth for the month with an over the year increase of 2.7%, followed by Yuma at 2.1%, Prescott at 1.8%, Lake Havasu City-Kingman at 1.3%, Flagstaff at 0.8%, and 0.6% for both Tucson and Sierra Vista-Douglas. These figures were released April 20 by the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity.

The 2015 County Business Patterns report was released April 20.  When compared to 2014, Arizona added 1,918 establishments (single business location), an increase of 1.4%, and the number of paid employees increased 2.4%. This was similar to the nation which had increases of 1.3% in establishments and 2.5% in employees. Maricopa County added the most establishments and employees in the state, not surprising given the size difference between Maricopa and the rest of the counties in the state. Navajo County added the largest percentage of establishments (2.3%) and Coconino added the largest percentage of employees (5.3%). Greenlee County lost the largest percent of both establishments (-4.2%) and employees (-42.5) in 2015.    

The Consumer Price Index decreased 0.3% in March on a seasonally adjusted basis according to the April 14 Bureau of Labor Statistics release. While food prices rose over the month, energy prices (gasoline in particular) took a nosedive, making that the biggest factor in the decline for March. The index for all items less food and energy fell for the first time since January 2010. The annual inflation rate was 2.4% for March.

Producer prices decreased 0.1% in March, seasonally adjusted, based on the April 13 Bureau of Labor Statistics release. Final demand goods and final demand services both fell 0.1% over the month. The unadjusted 12-month change in producer prices for March was 2.3%, making that the largest increase since March 2012.

U.S. nonfarm payroll employment increased only 98,000 in March according to the April 7 Bureau of Labor Statistics release. This was the smallest monthly increase since May 2016 and was well below the most recent three-month average of 178,000 (both January and February job numbers were revised slightly downward). Sectors adding the most jobs were professional and business services as well as mining, while retail trade lost jobs. The unemployment rate dropped to 4.5% in March from 4.7% in February.

The U.S. trade deficit lowered in February, down $4.6 billion to $43.6 billion, according to the April 4 release. Both exports and imports decreased over the month, but imports decreased $4.3 billion compared to the $0.4 billion decrease in exports. Year-to-date, the deficit in goods and services was 3.1% higher than the same period in 2016.

Hands and calculator photo courtesy Shutterstock.

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