PHOENIX -- The state's jobless rate dropped a bit last month -- probably.
New figures from the state Department of Administration put the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 6.5 percent. That's a tenth of a point less than what it has been stuck at for the five prior months.
But Aruna Murthy, the agency's director of economic analysis, said reported job growth in local education -- people laid off over the holidays but reemployed afterwards -- appears unusually large. Murthy said it will take several more months of data to see if the data is accurate.
By contrast, the national jobless rate dropped two-tenths of a point.
Overall, the state added 13,800 private sector jobs in February.
The brightest spot in the monthly report appears to be in employment in bars and restaurants.
There was no loss as typically occurs in January as employers kept people on for the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl. But in February, establishments added another 4,300 employees, compared with the typical 3,600 for this time of year.
Murthy said it's likely that many of these places, anxious to ensure they had staff available for the start of spring training, simply kept on those that typically would have been let go last month.
She also found increased employment in professional services. Murthy said much of that may be due to tax preparation firms bringing on staff to start training them for the busy tax season.
Even the state's construction industry picked up 100 jobs.
The situation was more mixed in the retail sector, with job gains among car dealers and even garden supply firms, the latter perhaps due to a milder-than-normal winter and early planting season. But there were job losses in department stores and other places that sell clothing and accessories.
Of note is that problems persist in Arizona's manufacturing sector, particularly among firms that make computers, processors and other electronic parts. These firms shed 200 jobs in February, bringing employment down 6.5 percent below it was a year earlier.
Murthy said some of that involves the lasting effects of federal spending cutbacks.
But she also speculated that much of the industry here is involved in the manufacture of traditional computers -- desktops and laptops -- and the chips that power them. Murthy said consumers continue to turn away from those in favor of tablets and other portable devices.
There was only small growth among private education firms. Murthy said while her agency does not discuss data from individual employers, she did note the announcement from Apollo Group that enrollment at its University of Phoenix is just half of what it was five years earlier.