High Frequency Data

George Hammond, Ph.D. Director of the Economic and Business Research Center
Jennifer Pullen, Senior Research Economist

Non-Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rate December 2020

The Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area's (MSA) non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.4% in December. That was a slight improvement from 7.7% in November. Tucson's unemployment rate in December fell in the middle of comparable peer metropolitan areas but was substantially higher than Salt Lake City which posted the lowest unemployment rate of 3.5%. Las Vegas's unemployment rate continues to outpace other western MSAs at 10.4%. Nationally, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.5% in December. The metropolitan area unemployment rates for January will be available in mid-March. 

Arizona Update

With the December release, the Census Bureau has published preliminary housing permit data for all of 2020. The data show a large increase in permit activity for the year, as Exhibit 1 shows. Statewide housing permits rose to 57,281, a 23.0% increase from the final annual total for 2019. Phoenix permits hit 45,694, a 27.4% increase from the prior year. Permits activity was up substantially in Tucson as well, with 4,956 permits pulled. That was a 14.9% increase over 2019.

Keep in mind that these are preliminary counts for 2020. They include imputed data for permit issuing places that did not respond to the monthly survey in time for publication. Revised annual totals will be released later this year (usually in May).

Exhibit 1: Annual Housing Permits for Arizona, the Phoenix MSA, and the Tucson MSA

Weekly Roundup

According to advance data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Arizona initial claims for regular unemployment insurance hit 18,090 for the week ended January 23. The advance data are usually revised down significantly when the final count is released by the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, which should happen early next week. The Arizona Department of Employment Security reported 12,483 initial claims for the week. Arizona initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance in Arizona fell slightly for the week ended January 23, from 3,141 to 2,947 (reported by the U.S. Department of Labor).

According to the Arizona Department of Employment Security, they paid out $13.1 billion in unemployment benefits (federal and state) from early March 2020 to the week ended January 23. The Arizona UI Trust Fund balance was $62.7 million for the week ended January 23, down from $72.1 million the prior week.

National initial claims for regular unemployment insurance fell to 873,966 for the week ended January 23, down from 975,464 the prior week. Even so, initial claims were roughly triple the total one year ago. Initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fell slightly to 426,856, down from 447,328 the prior week.

The U.S. hotel occupancy rate was 40.0% for the week ended January 23, nearly unchanged from the prior week of 40.1%. The occupancy rate was down 32.1% from last year.

Preliminary U.S. movie box office sales plummeted to $8.9 million for the week ended January 28. That was down from $14.4 million the prior week (revised data). The current week sales were down 96.4% from last year. There were 24 new movies released last week, down 70.7% from last year.

TSA traveler throughput data were not updated for the full week ended January 30, as of this writing. The daily data that was available for the week indicated no improvement.

Seated diners at restaurants using the OpenTable app weakened again for the week ended January 30. Diners were down 57.9% over the year for the nation, while activity was down 47.2% for Arizona, and 57.0% for the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Travel to retail and recreation places (Google Maps data) weakened for the week ended January 23 for the U.S., Arizona, Maricopa County, and Pima County. Travel was down between 22.0% and 26.0% compared to January 2020. Travel to work also declined, with activity down between 29.6% and 34.3%.

The Census Bureau has discontinued the weekly new business applications series. They plan to replace it with a monthly series.

You can find all the latest weekly COVID-19 indicators on Arizona's Economy