KINGMAN - After a year mired in the double-digits, Mohave County's unemployment rate dropped slightly in December to its lowest rate in eight months, according to a new report from the state commerce department, though that rate remains well above the state and national averages.
Unemployment in the Kingman-Lake Havasu City metropolitan statistical area shed two-tenths of a point in December, dropping to 10.5 percent, the lowest rate since April's 10.2 percent and just below the 10.8 percent average for the year.
Overall, there are 82,000 people employed in the county compared to a total labor force of 91,600, its lowest level since January, which may be due to discouraged jobseekers falling off the unemployment rolls or simply leaving the area in search of work elsewhere. Employment was down about 1,500 from its peak in July, though the civilian labor force has also fallen by about 1,800 over the same period, hence the lower unemployment rate.
Total non-farm employment was up by about 200 jobs for the month, with those gains confined to the private sector. The trade, transportation and utilities job sector posted the biggest gains, adding 200 new employees to the rolls - not too surprising given the holiday shopping season. Other sectors to post gains included manufacturing and financial activities, which each added about 100 jobs each.
Some of the gains were offset by losses in other sectors, however, namely the mining/construction and leisure/hospitality sectors, which each shed about 100 jobs. All other sectors, including information, professional/business services, educational/health services and local and federal government, remained unchanged for the month.
For the year, goods-producing sectors, including construction and manufacturing, saw virtually no change, ending the year with just 100 more workers than they began with, at 5,500 total employees. Service-providing sectors fared substantially better, adding about 1,600 jobs for the year, with trade, education/health services and state/local government posting the largest net gains.
Overall, however, the unemployment rate remains four-tenths of a percent higher than it was in December 2009, indicating that the county has yet to see the true beginnings of an economic recovery.
The statewide unemployment rate remained unchanged in December at 9.4 percent, while the national unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a percent, also to 9.4 percent.
In Arizona, Flagstaff currently holds the lowest unemployment rate of the major metro areas at 8.2 percent, while Yuma, with its large transitory agricultural workforce, retained the state's highest rate at 23.2 percent. Other rates include 8.3 percent for Tucson, 8.4 percent for the Phoenix/Mesa/Glendale area and 9.7 percent for Prescott.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nevada continues to hold the nation's highest state unemployment rate at 14.5 percent, while North Dakota enjoys the lowest at 3.8 percent.