Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Tucson loses 2,300 more jobs in March

Job seekers line  up at a National Career Fair in Long Beach, Calif.

Job seekers line up at a National Career Fair in Long Beach, Calif.

The Tucson metropolitan area lost another 2,300 jobs in March, and the area’s unemployment rate spiked half a percentage point, to 7.1 percent.

That is still lower than the state’s overall rate, which is 7.8 percent after the loss of 7,600 nonfarm payroll jobs in March, according to a report released Thursday by the Arizona Department of Commerce.

Since March of last year, the Tucson area, which includes all of Pima County, has lost 18,600 jobs. The unemployment rate in Tucson in March 2008 was 4.3 percent.

In the latest round of cuts, most of the jobs lost – 1,800 – were in service industries, including trade, transportation and utilities and professional and business services.

Construction jobs again declined, with another 300 jobs lost.

There was slight growth in the clothing and general merchandise and the leisure and hospitality sectors, but statewide gains were less than expected for March, a tourism-heavy period.

Since December 2007, the beginning of the national recession, Arizona has lost 230,400 jobs, according to the report. Most of those jobs – 183,000 – have been lost since March 2008.

The March 2009 increase in the jobless rate is part of a pattern that puts Arizona on track to hit 8 percent in the next monthly report, said Dennis Doby, a Commerce Department researcher.

“You can’t say when this is going to turn,” Doby said.

An unemployment rate of 10 percent is possible by late 2009, he said. “You’re getting a percent every three months,” he said.

There has been more positive talk about the economy recently, but a renewed confidence among both consumers and businesses is key for a recovery to take hold, Doby said.

The state’s unemployment rate could keep rising once the economy appears to stabilize, Doby said.

That’s because workers now too discouraged to look for work would resume looking for jobs and be counted in the work force, he said. “Unemployment is going to be a lagging indicator,” he said.

The national unemployment rate also continues to rise. Last month, it stood at 8.5 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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