Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by Talk Business & Politics, and sponsored by Arvest Bank. Supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.
A slight rise in job growth and a decline in number number of unemployed pushed Arkansas’ jobless rate down to 5% in November, the first time the rate has been that low since April 2008. The rate is down from 5.1% in October, and well below the 5.7% rate in November.
According to the figures released Friday (Dec. 18) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s economy added an estimated 34,192 jobs – up 2.76% – between November 2014 and November 2015.
The size of the workforce was 1.335 million, up 1.98% compared to November 2014. However, the workforce shrank from the 1.337 million in October. The peak for Arkansas’ labor force was 1.376 million in August 2008.
The number of employed in Arkansas during November was 1.269 million, better than the 1.268 million in October and better than the 1.234 million in November 2014. The number of unemployed was an estimated 66,644 during November, below the 68,612 in October, and below the 74,799 in November 2014.
Sectors leading the year-over-year gains were Education & Health Services (+5,800), Construction (+5,600) and travel and tourism (+2,700). However, the manufacturing sector continues its decline, losing an estimated 5,700 jobs since November 2014.
The closely watched nonfarm payroll number was 1,213,800 million in November, down from the 1,216,000 million in October and up over the 1,199,100 million in November 2014. If the November number stands, will will mark a new high. The October level was a new high for the nonfarm payroll number.
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. Investopedia estimates that the nonfarm category represents about 80% of the total workforce that contributes to national GDP.
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 SECTOR NUMBERS
In the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — Arkansas’ largest job sector — employment during November was an estimated 247,200, below the 248,000 in October and below the 248,400 during November 2014. Employment in the sector hit a high of 251,800 in March 2007.
Manufacturing jobs in Arkansas during November totaled 151,500, below the 152,700 in October and below the 157,200 in November 2014. Employment in the manufacturing sector fell in 2014 to levels not seen since early 1968. Peak employment in the sector was 247,300 in February 1995.
Government job employment during November was 212,700, up from 212,600 in October and down from the 213,100 during November 2014.
The state’s Education and Health Services sector during November had 179,300 jobs, up from 178,900 in October and up from 173,500 during November 2014. This sector has seen steady growth in the past decade, with employment in the sector up 21.3% compared to November 2005.
The construction sector employed an estimated 52,100 in November, down from 53,400 in October and above the 46,500 in November 2014. The sector is off the employment high of 57,600 reached in March 2007.
Arkansas’ tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) employed 112,000 during November, unchanged compared to October, and above the 109,300 during November 2014. The sector hit a record high in February with employment of 114,800.