Arkansas jobless rate slides to 5.2%, nears U.S. unemployment of 5.1%

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 218 views 

Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell another two-tenths of percentage point to 5.2% in September as employers added 33,500 workers to Arkansas payrolls in the past year.

That draws Arkansas nearer to the nation’s jobless rate which remained unchanged at 5.1% despite the additional of 142,000 workers to U.S. payrolls last month, according to the monthly workforce data compiled Tuesday (Oct. 20)  by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Still, the state’s monthly employment figures, which is released by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services (DWS), confirms regional and national economic reports that Arkansas and U.S. job growth may be slowing as the state’s labor pool shrank 1,400, a result of 2,500 fewer unemployed and 1,100 more employed Arkansans.

“The size of the civilian labor force declined slightly, as the decrease in the number of unemployed more than offset the gain in employment,” said Susan Price, manager of the state’s BLS program operations.

Year-over-year, the state’s jobless rate is down eight-tenths of a percentage point from 5.9% in September 2014. The civilian workforce now stands at a robust 1,337,100 workers, down slightly from August’s yearly high of 1,338,500, but still 2.6% better than the 1,303,200 workers in the labor force a year ago.

Construction led the state’s overall job growth over the past year, adding 7,800 workers. Education and health services and professional and business services followed with the addition of 5,600 and 5,400 workers respectively. Manufacturing was the biggest decliner with a loss of 2,800 workers, followed by the state’s oil and gas sector (mining) dropping 700 positions.

Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment rose by 12,300 to 1,219,400, up from 1,201,100 in August and better than 1,119,100 a year ago. September marks the fourth consecutive month the nonfarm level set a new record. Prior to June, the record was 1,209,800 in July 2008. The nonfarm number topped the 1.2 million mark in December, the first time since September 2008. The nonfarm category does not include farm workers, private household employees, non-profit employees and “general government” employees.

Arkansas’ average jobless rate for 2014 was 6.1%, down 1.3% percentage points from the 7.4% average in 2013. It is the first time the annual average dropped below 7% since 2008.

Arkansas’ largest job sector – the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector – lost 1,900 workers in September, sliding to 245,900 jobs compared to 247,000 in August. That total is slightly down from 300 from the 246,200 workers employed in that sector in September 2014.

Manufacturing jobs in Arkansas continued on downward path to levels not seen in nearly a half century. The total number of blue collars jobs in September was 152,800, down 700 from 153,200 in August and a loss of 2,800 positions from 155,300 in September 2014. Once the state’s largest industry sector, manufacturing employment peaked at 247,300 in February 1995.

Arkansas government kept growing in September when 12,900 jobs were added to payrolls at the start of school. There were 214,700 government jobs in September, compared to 201,800 in August. This month’s total is 500 below 215,200 government jobs in Arkansas in September 2014.

The state’s Education and Health Services sector during August had 178,800 jobs, up from 176,800 in August and 173,200 a year ago. September marked a new record for employment in the sector.

The bellwether construction sector grew by an estimated 1,100 workers in September. There were 55,200 workers employed in that sector for the month, up from 54,100 in August and 47,400 in September 2014. The sector is nearing the employment high of 57,600 reached in March 2007.

Arkansas’ tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) employed 114,100 during September, down 1,200 from the previous month, but still better than 110,000 jobs held by state workers a year ago. The sector is just off the state’s record high in February with employment of 114,800.