Arkansas’ jobless rate fell to 7.3% in January, a tenth of a percent lower than December and two-tenths of a percent lower than one year ago.

The U.S. unemployment rate also fell one-tenth of a percent in January to 6.6%.

Arkansas’ jobless rate remained above 7% for the 60th consecutive month – five years – when the state and nation were roiling from the near economic collapse of the Great Recession.

In January 2014, Arkansas’ employed labor force stood at 1,231,200 workers a gain of 2,400 from December 2013 and 1,200 from January 2013.

Arkansas Department of Workforce Services personnel said the employment rise was the fifth consecutive month for gains.

The state’s employed workforce has been struggling since January 2012 when the number stood at 1,257,700, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.  Since then, Arkansas has seen an exit of approximately 26,500 workers from the labor force.  Going back five years, more than 33,500 workers have exited Arkansas employment ranks.

Economists contend that baby boomers retiring, workers giving up looking for work, and more potential workers staying in school may be contributing to the workforce decline.  Also, the statistics show that rural areas of Arkansas have lost substantially more workers than metropolitan regions of the state.

In the separately released Monthly Survey of Employers, seven major industry sectors posted job growth during the past year compared to four that saw declines.

Since January 2013, leisure and hospitality jobs have grown by 4,200, while manufacturing employment has fallen by 1,600. The full classification of industry gainers and decliners is as follows:

Mining & Logging -200
Construction +1,200
Manufacturing -1,600
Trade/Transportation +3,400
Information -500
Financial +900
Professional/Business +3,000
Education/Health +2,700
Leisure/Hospitality +4,200
Other +700
Government -600