Arkansas’ jobless rate again touches all-time low of 3.8% in January, state’s nonfarm job numbers fall

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 146 views 

Arkansas’ jobless rate in January matched an all-time low of 3.8% first touched in May and June 2016 as the number of unemployed workers declined by more than 2,000 entering the new year, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Monday (March 13).

According to Arkansas Department of Workforce Services (ADWS) officials, Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 3.9% in December 2016 to 3.8% in January 2017. Arkansas’ civilian labor force declined 1,275, a result of 2,098 fewer unemployed and 823 additional employed Arkansans.

“After revising data from previous years, the new series reflects a small but steady decrease in unemployment each month since March 2011,” said BLS Program Operations Manager Susan Price.

Overall, Arkansas’ unemployment rate touched an all-time low of 3.8% in May, and has fallen below 4% in seven of the 12 months. The state’s low unemployment rate and growing labor pool has been a point of emphasis for Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration since he took office more than two years ago.

The state’s civilian work force touched a record high in August 2008, when there were 1,376,951 workers in the labor pool and the jobless rate was at 5.5%, state workforce officials said. That tally included 1,300,795 employed workers, and 76,156 seeking work, DWS data shows. Today, there are 1,336,036 workers in the civilian labor pool, down 8,363 in January 2016 when the state’s unemployment rate was 4.2%.

NATIONAL TRENDS
On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department officials reported that the U.S. economy added a healthy 235,000 jobs in February as employers in the construction trade, manufacturing sector, health care field and private education services added nearly half of the new positions. The U.S. jobless rate in February remained steady at 4.7%, down one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month when employers added 227,000 to payrolls. Over the past year, the nation’s unemployment figure has held at a range between 4.6% on the low end in November and 5% in March and April of 2016.

Recently released national economic indicators, including the CBIZ Small Business Employment Index and the closely-watched ADP National Employment Report, show that hiring trends across the U.S. are improving. The CBIZ Small Business Employment Index (SBEI), a barometer for hiring trends that surveys labor data from approximately 4,000 companies employing 300 or fewer people, posted a 0.16% month-over-month increase in hiring, a return to positive territory after a seasonally reasonable dip in January. The January SBEI saw hiring plunge by 3.12%.

“The small business labor market is gaining its footing after a few months of fluctuations during the election and at the start of the year,” said Philip Noftsinger, president of CBIZ Employee Services Organization. “As long as the (Trump) administration continues to keep its promises to small business, owners should react accordingly.”

ADP and Moody’s Analytics reported companies added 298,000 jobs for the month, surpassing economists’ expectations by more than 100,000. Additionally, January’s ADP was revised upward from 246,000 to 261,000 jobs added.

ARKANSAS JOB NUMBERS
In Arkansas, the benchmark nonfarm employment summary showed a whopping decline of 24,300 payroll jobs in January to a total of 1,216,300 as 10 major industry sectors posted job losses, the majority of which experienced typical seasonal fluctuations. Still, compared to January 2016, Arkansas’ nonfarm payroll job totals are up 11,800

Trade, transportation and utilities dropped 7,200, attributing the drop to the end of the holiday shopping season. Employment in government declined 6,000. Contractions in state and local government were related to the winter break at public schools.

Jobs in professional and business services decreased 5,900.  Most of a loss of 5,100 in administrative and support services, which includes employment agencies.  Leisure and hospitality declined 2,400 due to seasonal contractions in accommodation and food services.

Employment in educational and health services also decreased 2,800. Most of the loss was seasonal, posted in educational services. The largest increase occurred in high-paying professional and business services at 900 job adds with gains in all three subsectors.

In January, Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector – Arkansas’ largest job sector – employment declined by 7,200 to an estimated 250,100 workers in the labor pool, compared to 257,300 in December and 248,800 a year ago.

Education and Health Services sector lost 1,300 jobs in January and now has 184,400 workers in the state’s declining labor pool, compared with 185,700 in December and 177,900 in the same period a year ago. This sector has seen steady growth in the past decade, with employment in the sector up almost 20% since May 2006 and 6.5% in the past year.

Manufacturing jobs in Arkansas held steady with a gain of 500 positions in January, up 500 from 155,900 in December and a 2,100 job adds from 154,300 in January 2016. Peak employment in the sector was 247,300 in February 1995.

Government hiring in the state continued to decline as some 6,000 workers were laid off or removed from local, state or federal payrolls. There are now 209,500 government workers on state payrolls, now the second-largest nonfarm sector behind Trade, Transportation and Utilities. A year ago, there were 211,100 government jobs in Arkansas.

The construction sector employed an estimated 48,100 in January, down 1,000 from a month ago and just off year ago levels of 48,300. The sector is well below the employment high of 57,600 reached in May 2007.

Arkansas’ healthy tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) lost 2,400 workers in January as the state’s parks and recreation and tourist destinations were in hibernation ahead of the traditional start of spring break this month. There are now 110,200 workers in the state’s tourism sector, compared to 122,600 in December and 108,900 in the same period a year ago.

State workforce officials will release seasonally adjusted job figures for February on March 24.

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