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Phoenix metro area among hardest hit by Great Recession, survey finds

by Chris Hinyub, published

From 2008 to 2010, the Great Recession has disproportionately impacted the Phoenix area causing one of the most dramatic declines in employment rates among the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas. As of last summer, only nine other metro areas had a lower share of their population holding jobs. This according to newly released data from the Census Bureau.


Last year, only 65.6 percent of working-age Phoenix residents had jobs. Household income figures also fell during this period as poverty rates increased. These are the findings of the annual American Community Survey, which replaced the long-form census questionnaire during last year's decennial census. Officials at the Census Bureau claim that the survey, based on the written responses of about 3 million people nationwide, is more accurate this year because of the detailed data collected by census workers in 2010. Previous surveys have presumed a larger population than Arizona actually had by last year, they say.


The U.S. Department of Labor, however, is painting a slightly different picture saying Arizona has been experiencing a sluggish recovery since last summer. According to monthly unemployment rate statistics, which only count the number of people who are actively seeking a job, the seasonally adjusted workforce of the state has grown by about 1 percent. This outpaces the national average but just barely.


When going by the Census Bureau's employment/population ratio, it is clear that the hoped for recovery hasn't arrived just yet. It seems Phoenix and Arizona have a bigger hole to climb out of than the rest of the nation. For instance, in 2008, the percentage of working-age people living in Phoenix who had jobs stood at 72.4. In two years, the metro area lost 6.8 percent of its employed residency. Sacramento matched this number. Only Charlotte, N.C. And Las Vegas experienced bigger drops.


Currently, Arizona's unemployment rate stands at 9.3 percent while the national average is 9.1 percent. Compare this with the state's 4.1 percent unemployment rate at the beginning of the recession in December of 2007. The national unemployment rate at that time was 5.0 percent.

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