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Unemployment Rate

Description: 

The unemployment rate is a standard measure of economic well-being, but has serious conceptual and measurement limitations. Annual average unemployment rates since 2000 are presented on Arizona Indicators for the United States, Arizona, and the 15 Arizona counties.

Data Source: 

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though monthly data are produced for the nation, states, and counties, only the annual average data are shown on Arizona Indicators due to the poor quality of the monthly data by state and county. Preliminary annual average data are available in January, with revised data released around the end of February. The national data are accessible at http://www.bls.gov/cps/; the state and county data are at http://www.bls.gov/lau/. Produced in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Administration’s Office of Employment and Population Statistics, the state and county data also are available at http://www.workforce.az.gov/local-area-unemployment-statistics.aspx.

Data Quality Comments: 

Though the unemployment rate is one of the most emphasized economic measures by the media, its definition of unemployed is limited to those actively seeking employment and thus excludes those who are so discouraged that they have temporarily dropped out of the labor force. Based on a survey of households (the Current Population Survey), the monthly estimates are accurate for the nation (based on the narrow definition). However, by state and county the monthly data are completely unreliable. Even the annual average estimates by state and county have huge survey error.

iconUnemployment Rate, 2013

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Visualization Notes:

Full employment is considered to occur when the unemployment rate is 4 percent or less. In 2013, the national unemployment rate averaged 7.4 percent. The Arizona rate was higher at 8.0 percent, but the margin of error around the Arizona figure is so large that one cannot conclude that the rate was higher in Arizona than the national average. The margin of error is significantly greater in the less populous counties, such that it is difficult to conclude which counties have the highest unemployment rates. The very high unemployment rate in Yuma County is not representative of its labor market, since the rate is substantially affected by the survey’s method of handling migrant farm workers.

iconUnemployment Rate

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Visualization Notes:

The unemployment rate is cyclical, rising during recessions and falling during economic expansions. During the mid-2000s, the unemployment rate dropped below 5 percent nationally and to 4 percent in Arizona (considered to be full employment). With the onset of the economic recession in 2008, the unemployment rate nationally and in Arizona increased substantially, peaking in 2010 at 9.6 percent nationally and at 10.4 percent in Arizona. The rate began to drop in 2011 and fell further in 2012 and 2013. The declines over these three years were about equal in Arizona to the nation, leaving the 2013 unemployment rate higher in Arizona.

Even though the unemployment rate is consistently higher than the national average in some Arizona counties, it may not be accurate to conclude that those counties have persistently high unemployment. Poor data quality and methodological issues limit the reliability of the unemployment estimates.

Data Source

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though monthly data are produced for the nation, states, and counties, only the annual average data are shown on Arizona Indicators due to the poor quality of the monthly data by state and county. Preliminary annual average data are available in January, with revised data released around the end of February. The national data are accessible at http://www.bls.gov/cps/; the state and county data are at http://www.bls.gov/lau/. Produced in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Administration’s Office of Employment and Population Statistics, the state and county data also are available at http://www.workforce.az.gov/local-area-unemployment-statistics.aspx.