Arkansas’ jobless rate was 7.2% in March, unchanged from February and just slightly below the 7.3% in March 2012. One of the largest sector drops was in travel and tourism jobs, with employment down more than 2.2% between March and February.

March marks 50 consecutive months that Arkansas’ jobless rate has been at or above 7%. March also continued a trend in which the jobless rate improves but declines in the size of the workforce and number of employed point to ongoing weakness in Arkansas’ economy.

The number of employed in Arkansas during March was down an estimated 31,744 compared to March 2012, but the number of unemployed fell from 99,332 in March 2012 to an estimated 95,987 in March 2013.

The workforce size shrank from an estimated 1.337 million in February to 1.329 million in March. The workforce totaled 1.365 million in March 2012, according to the Friday (April 19) report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Arkansas’ annual average jobless rate fell from 7.9% during 2011 to 7.3% during 2012.

ARKANSAS SECTOR NUMBERS
In the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — Arkansas’ largest job sector — employment during March was an estimated 250,400, unchanged from a revised February number and ahead of the 241,200 during March 2012.

Manufacturing jobs in Arkansas during March totaled 155,900, down from the 157,700 in February and below the 155,900 in March 2012. Employment in the once booming manufacturing sector fell in 2012 to levels not seen since early 1968. Peak employment in the sector was 247,300 in March 1995.

Government job employment during March was 215,800, down from 215,900 in February and below the 216,600 during March 2012.

The state’s Education and Health Services sector during March had 175,400 jobs, up from the 174,300 during February and up from 171,500 during March 2012. Employment in the sector is up more than 25% compared to March 2003.

Arkansas’ tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) employed 101,300 during March, well below the 103,600 during February and less than the 103,200 during March 2012. At a revised 103,700, January 2013 marked a new employment high in the sector.

The construction sector employed an estimated 46,300 during March, up from the 44,300 during February and below the 49,000 during March 2012. Employment in the sector is down almost 14% from March 2003.

NATIONAL, REGIONAL DATA
The BLS figures show that 26 states had jobless rate decreases in March compared to March 2012, 7 states saw rate increases, and 17 states had no change. The U.S. jobless rate during March was 7.6%, below 8.2% during March 2012.

The highest jobless rate among the states in March was 9.7% Nevada, and the lowest rate was 3.3% in North Dakota.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate was 5% in March, unchanged from February and below the 5.1% during March 2012. The jobless rate in Missouri during March was 6.7%, unchanged from February and below the 7% during March 2012.