FILE - Employment Arizona

Job seekers work at computer stations looking for employment at the Arizona Workforce Connection West Valley Career Center on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011, in Phoenix.

(The Center Square) – Employers in Arizona are hoping applications pick up after another layer of unemployment assistance ends. 

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which the Arizona Department of Economic Security (ADES) said gave 1.6 million of the state’s residents nearly $10 billion throughout the pandemic, ended earlier this month. The program received criticism from employers who claimed the benefit, among other enhanced payments, was keeping workers on the sidelines and their businesses understaffed.

National unemployment figures for August reflected a slow improvement in total employment, with nonfarm payroll growth increasing by 235,000 jobs when the expectation was more than three times that.

“The expiration of extra unemployment benefits should help to reduce unemployment,” said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst. “Currently, the U.S. has more job openings than unemployed people, so people brought back to the workforce by the expiration of the extra benefits will have many opportunities to get hired.”

WalletHub tracks which states are recovering the quickest from the pandemic.

As for Arizona, the state’s July unemployment data shows the state had surpassed its total employment numbers from before the COVID-19 pandemic sent unemployment skyrocketing. Arizona is one of only five states to reach that threshold.

According to the ADES, 3.41 million people were working in July, an approximate increase of 387,000 workers from the pre-pandemic high.

The National Federation of Independent Business released its monthly Small Business Economic Trends report Tuesday, showing America’s Main St. economy is showing slight optimism. 

“Thankfully, in Arizona, our state government leaders have not layered on near the uncertainty that businesses in other states are experiencing,” said Chad Heinrich, Arizona state director for NFIB. “Finding qualified workers remains a make-or-break issue for most mom-and-pop businesses.”

The poll shows a 48-year high in unfilled job openings. The survey also reflects record pay increases.

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.