Arizona’s economy definitely got sicker in the fourth quarter, judging from the latest batch of state numbers.
Because federal and state data lag a month or more behind, the realities of what actually happened late last year are just now coming out.
Arizona motor-vehicle sales fell 44 percent and overall retail sales fell 15 percent in October, compared with a year earlier. That’s according to November taxable-sales reports from the Arizona Department of Revenue. Unemployment claims soared 80 percent in October and an even higher 104 percent in November in the state, the U.S. Department of Labor said.
September and October were nightmarish, with anincredible string of bad economic news, including the federal takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. the passage of a $700 billion federal bailout package. Shoppers obviously pulled back in October, either out of insecurity or because they had lost their jobs.
Other badly hit retailers included automotive suppliers, down 25 percent; building-material, home-center, gardening and hardware stores, down 14 percent, and furniture and home-furnishing stores, down 12 percent. Sales at clothing, accessory and shoe stores also fell 11 percent.
The general-merchandise sector, which includes department, discount and warehouse stores (Walmart, Target, Dillard’s, J.C. Penney etc.) dropped 9 percent in sales.
Unemployment claims have been rising so fast that the state Department of Economic Security had to hire 45 temporary workers to help process them. Workers have been hired and are being trained. They won’t be able to begin taking calls until Jan. 22, department spokeswoman Liz Barker said.
Meanwhile, the workload keeps growing. Claims exceeded 10,000 a week for several weeks in December.