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Economists estimate Arizona unemployment rate is higher than 10%

Posted at 4:29 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 01:45:43-04

PHOENIX — U.S. employers cut 700,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate rose from 3.5% to 4.4%, according to a report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report is the first to show the initial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labor market, but the data comes from early March, before most closures happened and people lost their jobs.

Economists said while it's an indicator that things aren't looking good, the real unemployment rate is actually much higher.

"These numbers don't even begin to reflect what's really going on," said economist Elliott Pollack. "The numbers will be incredibly large, much larger than this suggests."

Pollack, the CEO of Elliott D. Pollack and Company, said in Arizona, the unemployment rate is most likely in the double digits.

"The number of people unemployed is going to jump very dramatically. You take a look at the industries that are completely gone and the ripple effects of those industries, and it's fully a third of the economy," he said.

Pollack said a better indicator of the labor market is the unemployment insurance claim numbers.

The Grand Canyon Institute estimates the current unemployment rate in Arizona has surpassed 10%, based on the number of people who've filed unemployment claims in the past three weeks.

According to Department of Economic Security, claims jumped from about 3,000 a week in early March to nearly 89,000 claims the last week of March.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that by July, Arizona's unemployment rate will hit 15.7%. Economists say we'll have a much better idea of what's going on when we get the unemployment report in April.

Tens of thousands of people in Arizona have filed to get benefits from the state.

Kristin Carmody is a personal trainer and assistant manager at The Foundry - Paradise Valley. The gym shut down in mid-March, and Carmody applied for unemployment insurance immediately after.

"It was a tough pill to swallow to know that my job was taken away with a blink of an eye without doing anything wrong," said Carmody.

She hasn't received any payments yet, and when she does, she says it'll be less than a third of what she was making.

"I cannot afford anything other than rent and minimal groceries right now," she said.