Arkansas’ annual average jobless rate fell from 7.9% during 2011 to 7.3% during 2012, according to a report released Friday (Mar. 1) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

However, January delivered a more than 41% increase in the number of lost jobs in Arkansas related to mass layoffs.

In the U.S., annual average unemployment rates declined in 46 states, rose in 2 states, and were unchanged in 2 states. The U.S. jobless rate declined by 0.8 percentage point from the prior year to 8.1%.

Three states had unemployment rates of 10% or more in 2012. Nevada again had the highest unemployment rate at 11.1%, followed by California at 10.5% and Rhode Island at 10.4%. North Dakota, at an annual average of 3.1%, had the lowest jobless rate among states for the fourth year in a row. Nebraska had the second lowest at 3.9%, and South Dakota was third at 4.4%.

Oklahoma had an annual average rate in 2012 of 5.2%, down from 5.9% in 2011. Missouri’s annual average jobless rate fell from 8.4% in 2011 to 6.9% in 2012.

THE ARKANSAS PICTURE
Although Arkansas’ annual average jobless rate declined, December marked the 47th consecutive month Arkansas’ jobless rate has been at or above 7%. (December is the most recent report on state jobs data. The January jobless rate and employment report is set for release on March 18.)

Employed Arkansans were an estimated 1.258 million in December, down 8,725 jobs, or 0.6%, compared to November 2012. 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.

MASS LAYOFFS
A Feb. 26 report from the BLS shows there were 15 mass layoffs reported in Arkansas during January accounting for 1,963 initial claims. The number of claims are up compared to the 19 mass layoffs accounting for 1,389 initial claims in January 2012.

A mass layoff is one in which at least 50 jobs are lost.

In Oklahoma, with a significantly larger population than Arkansas, the three mass layoffs in January created 241 initial claims, fewer than the six mass layoffs and 443 initial claims in January 2012.

Nationwide, January mass layoff claims increased after two years of declines. Following are the mass layoff figures between January 2010 and January 2013.

• January 2013: 1,528 layoffs; 144,517 claims (jobs)
• January 2012: 1,705 layoffs; 141,703 claims (jobs)
• January 2011: 2,558 layoffs; 246,463 claims (jobs)
• January 2010: 2,860 layoffs; 278,679 claims (jobs)

“In January, the manufacturing sector accounted for 31 percent of mass layoff events and 37 percent of associated initial claims in the private economy,” noted the Feb. 26 BLS report. “Within manufacturing, the numbers of mass layoff claimants were highest in transportation equipment and in food.

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.

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