Greg Kaza, economist and executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, says the state’s engine is still struggling to recover from the Great Recession four years ago.

“This morning’s (Friday’s) payroll employment report for March, nearly four years into an economic expansion, provides more evidence the Arkansas labor market is a four-cylinder engine firing on only two cylinders,” Kaza said.

“Why term Arkansas’ labor market a four-cylinder engine? Six- and eight-cylinder engines are more powerful than their four-cylinder counterparts,” he added.

According to Kaza’s research, the U.S. labor market is stronger – expanding 3.5% versus Arkansas’ 2.1% growth rate – since the expansion started in June 2009, roughly 14 months ago.

Kaza notes that six Arkansas jobs sectors representing 44% of Arkansas’ labor market have contracted or failed to expand during the expansion period of the last four years.

Job numbers for contracting job sectors are as follows:

Mining & Logging (flat)
March 2013 (estimate): 10,100
June 2009: 10,100

Construction (down)
March 2013 (estimate): 46,300
June 2009: 50,700

Manufacturing (down)
March 2013 (estimate): 155,900
June 2009: 161,600

Financial Services (down)
March 2013 (estimate): 49,600
June 2009: 50,600

Other Services (down)
March 2013 (estimate): 41,400
June 2009: 44,600

Government (down)
March 2013 (estimate): 215,800
June 2009: 216,900

The Trade, Transportation and Utilities (TTU) sector is the one bright spot in Arkansas’ labor market, expanding 6.6% versus the U.S. average of 3.5%.

Kaza noted that TTU and three other sectors showed gains during the period under study:

Following are the numbers (first month, June 2009; second number, March 2013, preliminary):

Trade, Transportation & Utilities (up)
March 2013 (estimate): 250,400
June 2009: 234,800

Professional & Business Services (up)
March 2013 (estimate): 123,400
June 2009: 111,500

Education & Health Services (up)
March 2013 (estimate): 175,400
June 2009: 162,500

Leisure & Hospitality (up)
March 2013 (estimate): 101,300
June 2009: 100,200

Kaza also noted that Arkansas has responded differently from this most recent recession and recovery than two previous recoveries which occurred from March 1991-March 2001 and November 2001-December 2007.

“All Arkansas employment sectors except manufacturing were expanding at this point in the 2001-2007 expansion,” he said. “All Arkansas employment sectors were expanding at this point in the 1991-2001 expansion.”