Job outlook improves in Arizona, Mohave County

PHOENIX - The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Arizona dropped to 6.9 percent in September, down from 7.1 percent in August, the Arizona Department of Administration reported Thursday.

The decrease of 0.2 percentage points matches the national trend. U.S. unemployment dropped to 5.9 percent in September, compared with 6.1 percent the previous month. It's the first time the national rate dropped below 6 percent in six years.

A year ago, Arizona's unemployment rate was 8 percent and the national rate was 7.2 percent.

Mohave County's unemployment rate fell even further to 7.8 percent in September, a decrease of 0.4 percentage points from 8.2 percent in August. The county has an available labor force of 83,800 with total employment of 77,300, according to the Arizona Department of Administration.

The county may be on the verge of an "economic breakout" as more companies appear eager to break away from California and do business in a wide-open frontier, said Bennett Bratley, director of economic development for Mohave County.

The manufacturing sector at Kingman Airport and Industrial Park has seen some increased business activity. Chromascope recently invested $3.5 million in a 40,000-square-foot expansion and added a handful of new employees.

Scot Industries chose to locate at the industrial park in late 2013, taking a 50,000-square-foot building that was vacant for more than a year.

Cascades Tissue Group looked around after its lease came up for renewal and decided to stay in Kingman, keeping 60 jobs here and adding a new production line, Bratley said.

"Every community is going to see companies come and go," he said. "It is the difference between gains and losses, the net effect that matters for job growth and ultimately economic growth."

Employment is expected grow more from existing businesses expanding and hiring additional workers than from new business creation, Bratley added.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) accounted for 60 percent of new job openings through expansion, while 40 percent of new jobs were added by new businesses.

Arizona added 28,800 nonfarm jobs to the payroll in September, predominantly in government as schools returned to normal staffing levels.

The private sector reported job gains of 1,900, below the 10-year average of 2,200 jobs, but higher than the post-recession (2009-13) average gain of 700 jobs.

Education and health services added 2,600 jobs, followed by leisure and hospitality (1,100 jobs), professional and business services (1,000 jobs), trade, transportation and utilities (500 jobs) and financial activities (400 jobs). The construction sector shed 2,900 jobs, while manufacturing lost 500 jobs and information lost 300 jobs.