Economist Kathy Deck pens an editorial/analysis piece in the latest issue of Talk Business Quarterly that examines the need for Arkansas to develop more jobs in the “professional and business” sector.
This industry segment is full of knowledge-based occupations and has been one of the stronger growing areas of the Arkansas jobs market in recent years. However, it still represents a smaller portion of the state’s overall jobs market than the national average.
What do lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, graphic designers and environmental consultants have in common? Each of these professions requires specific education and training, meaning that people in these fields are the highly sought after knowledge workers that are associated with thriving twenty-first century economies.
Also, and not coincidentally, all of these workers are all classified as employees of the “professional and business services” sector by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Most importantly, increasing the number of professional and business service sector jobs is a tremendous opportunity for the Arkansas economy because the infrastructure to support such an expansion has already been put into place. The state’s university systems are equipped to provide a ready and willing workforce for these jobs. Knowledge-based economic development is practiced throughout the state and the value of the human capital for these professionals is one of the state’s best natural resources.
For some perspective on the opportunity for Arkansas, consider that in January 2012, jobs in the professional and business services category made up 13 percent of national employment, but accounted for only 10 percent of Arkansas employment. Over the past decade, employment in the sector increased by 18,100 jobs, from 96,400 to 114,500.
Within the private sector, only health services added more employees in Arkansas over the last decade.
Deck touts more arguments for advancing professional service and knowledge-based jobs in this column for TBQ. It’s also an area that new AEDC director Grant Tennille has acknowledged the state needs to target for growth.