Arizona is back to pre-pandemic unemployment levels, report says

Arizona has reached an important economic milestone.

The state's unemployment rate is back to pre-pandemic levels and jobs have fully recovered.

However, a question remains: Why are so many businesses struggling to find employees if so many have returned to work?

It’s because many have left their former jobs and they don't have plans of coming back. Instead, they found new jobs in different industries.

"Bartending was great but the pandemic certainly changed things a lot," said Kassie Schy from Chandler.

She had a lot to think about over the last year, and eventually, she chose to leave her lucrative bartending job for a 9 to 5 with benefits that allows her to work from home.

"The dogs love it. I’m home all the time, I don’t have to commute, no more gas money and I don’t work until 2 a.m. anymore. So that’s good," she says.

Chris Camacho with Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), says, "There is a massive reset occurring within our labor pool as we speak."

He says Schy's story isn't uncommon these days.

Employees change direction of careers

The unemployment rate of 5.7% is at pre-pandemic levels and the state has recovered all of the lost jobs. Yet, many businesses say they’re still struggling to hire.

Camacho explains this as employment pools have shifted and many have moved to other industries that are growing faster.

"A very pronounced contraction level in hospitality, retail, restaurant, and those particular areas. As we saw the recovery occur, we didn’t see the wave of those employees returning to those job sectors. So that’s why there’s currently a mismatch. When you try to go out and order food, buy e-commerce, or go out to your favorite restaurant, we’re seeing job signs everywhere and it’s a really interesting and unique dynamic right now," he said.

Schy says her co-workers at her former restaurant job have also changed fields.

"A lot of people are leaving the industry because of COVID," Schy said.

How does this work going forward? That’s the big question in Arizona because the state's busiest service industry months are ahead with events like Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Camacho says there will be a lot of pressure on that industry.

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