By Eric Jay Toll

The Greater Phoenix metro area gained almost 10,000 jobs in March 2021 over February numbers in the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity latest report. The Phoenix workforce grew to 2.2 million in the 13 months since the coronavirus pandemic started. Year-over-year, the metro area workforce is still more than 50,000 jobs short of March 2020 numbers.

The OEO data show the Greater Phoenix workforce about 97.6 percent of last year’s number for March. In February 2021, the metro area was at just over 96 percent of the prior year’s job numbers. In terms of numbers, most new jobs fell within the leisure and hospitality sectors, with 4,100 new hires in March, 2,400 in arts and entertainment alone, and another 1,700 in food services and drinking places sector.

Construction hired an additional 2,700 more than February, healthcare added 2,000, transportation and warehousing filled 1,800 positions, and manufacturing added 1,000 new jobs in March. These four industry sectors added over half the new Greater Phoenix jobs in month-over-month.

In year-over-year comparisons, the transportation and warehousing sector added 16,000 new jobs, and healthcare services gained 6,500 jobs over last year. Professional, scientific and technical employment grew by 4,600 in year-over-year, and banking increased new hires by 3,900. Virtually all other industry sectors hired fewer than last year, with leisure and hospitality down by 34,100 workers compared to the previous year.

The Phoenix metro’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent in March, down from 6.7 percent in February. Last year, while the pandemic started its impacts in March, the severe job losses didn’t occur until April. The unemployment rate in March 2020 for Greater Phoenix was 4.6 percent.