Even though Arizona's unemployment rate ticked up slightly in January, the state continues its economic recovery, a local economist says.

Arizona's unemployment rate went from 7.9 percent in December to 8 percent in January, the latest figures available, a change driven by seasonal factors, said George Hammond, associate director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management.

But comparing year-over-year data, the state is doing well, he said, with unemployment down from 8.6 percent in January 2012. Hammond called that a significant drop.

"That improvement is primarily driven by job growth," he said, as opposed to people leaving the labor market altogether after a long period of unemployment.

The employment sectors adding jobs are construction, service, health care and financial, among others, he said. The improvement is not just in Maricopa County, although various parts of the state fare differently.

"Tucson is growing, it is adding jobs, but that growth is coming at slower than the rest of the country," Hammond said.

Overall, Hammond said, the state is seeing positive economic signs: "The growth has a good chance of accelerating for Southern Arizona and for Arizona as a whole."

January’s unemployment numbers are not released until March every year because of a federal audit.