The holiday shopping season did not translate into a huge spike in jobs available to Arizonans this year, though there was some improvement.
Based on the number of retail jobs in Arizona in October — when holiday hiring typically gets started — this year is better than 2009, and above average.
Employers added 7,000 retail jobs between October 2009 and October 2010, according to the Arizona Department of Commerce.
“This was a pretty good October,” said workforce analyst Rick Van Sickle. “October … is typically a time when we get a lot of winter visitors coming in and we have stores starting to gear up for Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping. Even some Halloween stores that pop up.”
Economist Lee McPheters, a professor with ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business, told a group this week that Arizona is ranked No. 12 for job creation. And the Valley has the second highest job growth of large cities in the nation, just behind Washington, D.C.
Maricopa Workforce Connections’ One Stop Center in Gilbert, however, only saw about 84 job listings come through for seasonal employment in November, said center director Terry Farrell.
But it could be that companies didn’t need to come through the employment center because so many job seekers went directly to the source, he said.
“In the East Valley with us and DES (Department of Economic Security), there wasn’t any noticeable increase in employers sending us their jobs this season,” Farrell said. “Definitely there was no big spike. It was maybe a little higher than a year before.”
Of those 84 jobs available in November, most — more than 50 — came from three East Valley Lowe’s locations, he said.
A number of retailers said they just added hours to current employees’ schedules rather than hire new workers, Maricopa Workforce Connections spokeswoman Dawn Zimmer said.
In fact, Maricopa Workforce Connections is having a hard time lining up employers for a planned job fair that is supposed to take place this week, Farrell said.
What Farrell did see in November was a jump in the number of job seekers attending a workshop the center puts on called, “Where the jobs are.”
Last month, 3,029 job seekers made a trip to the center, the most since the start of the fiscal year on July 1.
Farrell said the increase may be attributed to the number of people about to lose unemployment benefits. Congress failed to extend unemployment benefits that expired last week.
Federal unemployment numbers released Friday jumped from 9.6 percent to 9.8 percent as employers added fewer-than-expected jobs in November.
Nationally, retailers, factories, construction companies, financial firms and the government all cut jobs in November.
Arizona’s newest employment report will be released Dec. 16.
There may be hope in the next few months for job seekers.
“Historically between December and January there is a little bit of a lull” in job availability, Farrell said. “Employers are trying to figure out how many (seasonal workers) stay and go. It picks up the end of January or beginning of February.”
ASU’s McPheters said the state could add about 48,000 jobs in 2011. But that will still keep the job level below the pre-recession levels of 2007.
Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.