Pinal County’s population grew 2.6 percent this year, but its unemployment rate has steadily dropped over the past seven months.
The county’s jobless rate dropped from 6.3 to 6 percent, its lowest since May’s 5.6 percent. The state’s seasonally adjusted rate is also 6 percent, a drop of 0.1 percent. The U.S. rate is unchanged at 5 percent.
“We’ve grown, and we’re still gaining jobs. That’s very, very, very difficult to do,” said Tim Kanavel, Pinal County Economic Development manager. “People are getting jobs, whether it’s at home or in stores or somewhere out of the county.”
Pinal’s estimated population growth was 10,231 people in the past year. The growth rate of 2.6 was the highest in the state. Overall, Arizona’s population grew 1.4 percent in 2015.
Research administrator Doug Walls of the Arizona Department of Administration said the state is nearing pre-recession levels of jobs but still has 7.3 percent to regain. Ten years ago, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.
All indicators in the employment outlook are “pretty positive,” he said. Ten of 11 job categories showed growth so far in 2015. The only sector reporting losses was natural resources and mining.
According to the state data, the biggest job gains during 2015 have been in education and health, which picked up 13,800 jobs. Leisure and hospitality grew 10,900 jobs, and trade, transportation and utilities (TTU) gained 10,800 jobs.
TTU had Arizona’s biggest month-to-month growth in November with a pickup of 14,600 jobs. Education and health serviced gained 3,400 jobs.
Construction, a large job sector before the recession, remains one of the smaller categories. After nine Novembers in a row reporting over-the-month job losses, construction showed a job gain of 1,600 last month.
“Construction has not recovered the majority of its jobs,” Walls said. “They were clearly at an unsustainable level before the recession.”