During the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment rates and unemployment insurance claims have risen in Graham and Greenlee Counties.
According to the Arizona Commerce Authority, Graham County’s unemployment rate jumped from 6.6 percent in March to 7.5 percent in April and Greenlee County’s went from 5.2 to 5.3.
In February, unemployment rates were 4.8 percent in Graham County and 3.7 percent in Greenlee.
“I would say COVID-19 impacts are definitely responsible for these increases, whether it’s the restrictions or other impacts, especially copper prices,” said Doug Walls, of the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity. “They look like they’re down pretty dramatically since the beginning of the year, as there becomes less demand globally for copper materials.
“Whether that comes from some of the restrictions and shutdowns or if it’s market demand, it’s definitely seen in our unemployment numbers for Graham and Greenlee Counties.”
Walls said the two counties’ rates are still below Arizona’s, which according to the ACA was 12.6 percent in April.
Initial unemployment insurance claims have also risen locally over the last 10 weeks.
Graham County saw 98 claims from the week ending Mar. 1 to that ending Mar. 28, according to the ACA. In the same five-week period, Greenlee County recorded 25 claims.
From the week ending Apr. 4 to that ending May 2, those numbers jumped to 409 in Graham and 64 in Greenlee.
In Graham County most of March’s initial unemployment claims were from the hospitality and food service industry, which accounted for 27 claims — 26 of them from food service workers. The healthcare and social assistance industries were hit hard in April, accounting for 78 claims. Among occupations, food service and office workers each filed 49 claims, while sales workers accounted for 42.
Greenlee County saw five claims from the hospitality and food service industry, and five from construction workers, in March. In April, with Freeport McMoRan reducing staff in Morenci, there were 13 claims from the mining industry and 11 from construction. The most claims by occupation were also 11, from construction workers. Food service workers were right behind them with nine claims.
Despite the state’s jump in unemployment, Arizona’s rate remains lower than the country’s. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate was 14.7 percent as of May 8.
“While we’re seeing dramatic losses in Arizona, they’re not as dramatic as those at the national level,” said Walls.