Arkansas’ June jobless rate jumped 0.3% to 8.1%, the first time the state has seen that high of unemployment since June 1987.
The 8.1% rate was also three-tenths of a percent higher than one year ago when unemployment stood at 7.8%. In February 2010, Arkansas’ jobless rate hit 8%. U.S. unemployment was 9.2% in June.
State workforce officials put their best spin on the numbers noting that the number of employed Arkansans is higher than one year ago.
“The number of employed Arkansans declined in June, contributing to the increase in the unemployment rate. Compared to June 2010, there are still 5,900 more people in the labor force and 1,700 more employed Arkansans,” said Department of Workforce Services Communications Director Kimberly Friedman.
The monthly survey of employers – a separate calculation from the unemployment statistics – is released in conjunction with state jobless numbers. The employer report showed positive monthly growth in key sectors, such as construction (+1,600), professional and business services (+2,100) and leisure and hospitality (+1,900). Government jobs declined by the biggest number (-5,200) due to seasonal school reductions.
In a year-over-year comparison, sector employment changes look much different.
Construction jobs have faltered by 2,900 in the past 12 months. Manufacturing jobs have declined by 4,400, while government jobs have fallen by 5,600 mainly due to Census Bureau layoffs in the last year.
On the positive side, trade, transportation and utility jobs are up by 2,300 in the last year, while professional and business services employment has risen by 5,000. Education and health services have posted job growth of an estimated 2,100 workers and the leisure and hospitality industry has grown by a net 5,200 new jobs in the last 12 months.
ECONOMISTS OFFER TAKES
Economist Greg Kaza with the Arkansas Policy Foundation analyzes the latest data and offers a broader context to consider.
He notes that payroll employment has increased by 15,500 jobs since the formal end of the U.S. recession two years ago in June 2009. Kaza’s analysis shows that professional and business services have grown by the greatest number adding 11,200 jobs.
Education and health services have added 5,900 jobs since the end of the recession and the leisure and hospitality sector has added 4,300.
But the growth is weak by historical standards, he says.
"The weak state of Arkansas’ labor market is underscored by data that compares payroll employment in the month postwar recessions ended with the subsequent two-year period," Kaza tells Talk Business. "Employment growth in the current period is second-weakest in the postwar era, and substantially less than levels in earlier recoveries."
Dr. Michael Pakko, economist with UALR’s Institute for Economic Advancement, writes on his blog that "the Arkansas unemployment rate is now higher than it has been at any time during the recession and recovery."
However, Pakko says the news is not all bad.
"This is one of those occasions when the independent payroll survey provides a different picture than the household survey," Pakko writes. "According to the payroll report, employment was up by 2,100 in June (seasonally adjusted), with the May number revised upward slightly as well. Since the trough of February 2010, nonfarm payroll employment in Arkansas has increased by 27,600. That increase represents approximately 47% of the jobs lost from the start of the recession until February 2010."
You can read more of his commentary at this link.