Economic struggles continue despite modest gains

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PHOENIX -- Newly released numbers show unemployment below 9 percent in Arizona for the first time in months. So does that mean local businesses are really hiring?

The news from the State Department of Commerce was promising; but some Valley residents paint a different picture.

It may be a merrier Christmas for the 12,000 Arizonans who went from jobless to gainfully employed in November. The Department of Commerce says the unemployment rate dropped four tenths of a percent to 8.9 percent.

Nationally, economists are also optimistic, many indicating the recession is over. But it may not feel that way for Phoenix mom Billie Haase.

“I've been out of work since April,” she said. "There are just so many people out of work and there are not enough jobs for everybody.”

So the former customer service specialist heads to St. Mary’s Food Bank to feed her family. The agency is seeing record demand.

“The fact that unemployment is falling a little bit in Arizona is great news, but it is going to take a little while for that trickle-down effect to come to a place like St. Mary's Food Bank,” explained spokesperson Jerry Brown.

The unemployed are not the only ones struggling, despite signs of modest gain in the economy.

“There is some sign of improvement, but I don't think we're completely out of the water,” said Cheryl Green.

Green works for the Arizona Small Business Association, which coincidentally held their holiday event at St. Mary’s.

“I don’t think we're seeing [more businesses starting to hire] quite yet, but I think everyone is feeling optimistic about the new year,” she said.

Many employers seem to be proceeding with caution.

“We're in kind of a holding mode right now, trying to make sure we cover all our bases, maintain expenses, stay stable," said Scott Nickles of Document Storage Solutions.

Many small business owners told 3TV they are cautiously optimistic about the economy's recovery.

While the local economy is showing signs of improvement, the number of newly laid off workers filing for unemployment benefits nationwide went up last week.