Small percentage declines in Arkansas’ workforce numbers and the number of employed pushed Arkansas’ December unemployment rate to 7.1%, up from 7% in November, but below the 7.8% in December 2011.

December marked the 47th consecutive month Arkansas’ jobless rate has been at or above 7%.

Employed Arkansans were an estimated 1.258 million in December, down 8,725 jobs, or 0.6%, compared to November 2012, according to the Friday (Jan. 18) report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although Arkansas’ jobless rate in December is lower than December 2011, the BLS estimate shows 12,576 fewer Arkansans were unemployed in December than December 2011. However, the number of unemployed in December fell to 96,173 compared to 107,128 in December 2011.

The workforce size shrank from an estimated 1.363 million in November to 1.354 million in December. The workforce totaled 1.378 million in December 2011. December was the first time Arkansas’ workforce size fell below 1.36 million since September 2010.

ARKANSAS SECTOR NUMBERS

In the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — Arkansas’ largest job sector — employment during December was an estimated 238,500, below the 239,600 during November and ahead of the 237,000 during December 2011. Peak employment in the sector was 240,400 during January 2009.

Manufacturing jobs in Arkansas during December totaled 155,500, down from the 157,000 in November and down an estimated 500 jobs compared to December 2011. Employment in the once booming manufacturing sector fell in 2011 to levels not seen since early 1968. The June jobs figure is more than 33% below the January 2001 sector employment of 236,000.

Government job employment during December was 223,600, up slightly from 223,400 in November and ahead of the 220,900 during December 2011.

The state’s Education and Health Services sector during December had 171,600 jobs, down from the 172,400 during November and up from 168,400 during December 2011. Employment in the sector is up almost 29% compared to January 2002.

Arkansas’ tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) employed 102,800 during December, down from the 103,800 during November and ahead of the 99,200 during December 2011. The sector reached a record 104,900 jobs during April.

The construction sector employed an estimated 43,900 during December, up slightly from the 43,300 during November and below the 46,500 during December 2011. Employment in the sector is down more than 20% from January 2002.

NATIONAL, REGIONAL DATA
The BLS figures show that 42 states had jobless rate decreases in December compared to December 2011 and six states saw rate increases. The U.S. jobless rate during December was 7.8%, below 8.5% during December 2011.

The highest jobless rate was 10.2% in Nevada and Rhode Island, and the lowest rate was 3.2% in North Dakota.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate was 5.1% in December, down from 5.2% in November and below the 6.3% during December 2011. The jobless rate in Missouri during December was 6.7%, unchanged from November and below the 8% during December 2011.

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