Arkansas jobless rate unchanged at 3.9% in July, labor pool declines as school starts

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 91 views 

Arkansas’ jobless rate in July remained unchanged from June’s revised 3.9%, but the state’s civilian labor pool saw a brisk decline of 2,430 nonfarm payroll jobs in six industry sectors as many employers let go of temporary workers hired during the summer months.

Labor force data, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and released Friday (Aug. 19) by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, shows Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July now 3.9%, the same as last month’s revised jobless rate and well below year ago levels at 5.2%.

“Arkansas’ jobless rate remained stable between June and July, mirroring the trend seen at the national level,” said Arkansas BLS Program Operations Manager Susan Price. “Compared to July 2015, the unemployment rate is down one and three-tenths of a percentage point.”

Earlier this month, Obama administration officials praised the U.S. labor picture in July when U.S. employment rose by 255,000 while the unemployment rate held steady at 4.9%.

“(July’s) jobs report underscores the steadiness and breadth of our economic expansion. With 255,000 jobs added in July, we marked our record 70th straight month of job growth,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzer. “U.S. businesses have now added 15 million jobs since early 2010, the unemployment rate remains low at 4.9%, and growth in hourly earnings has increased 2.6% in the past year.”

Labor Department Chief Thomas Perez went even further, saying the July U.S. employment situation shows that the nation’s job market has fully rebounded from the long recession.

“With the addition of 255,000 jobs in July, American businesses have created a total of 15 million jobs since February 2010,” Perez said. “This month’s report confirms that the Great Recession is indeed in the nation’s rearview mirror – the economy has added jobs for 70 consecutive months, the longest streak on record.”

According to BLS, unemployment rates were significantly higher in July in 7 states, lower in 3 states, and stable in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Ten states and the District had notable unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, 3 states had increases, and 37 states had no significant change, including Arkansas.

At the same time, Arkansas is among the top three states in the U.S. with the most significant unemployment rate change over the past year, as noted by Price, dropping 1.3 percentage point year over year. Wyoming led the nation with a drop of 1.4 percentage points, followed by Arkansas and Tennessee.

However, Arkansas’ civilian labor force did lose some 2,430 workers from its 1,357,310-person labor pool, as a result of 2,700 fewer employed and 270 more unemployed Arkansans. That is still an improvement of 26,863 new positions over the 1,330,447 workers that were receiving paychecks or unemployment compensation a year ago.

Year to date, Arkansas’ jobless rate continues to remain below 4% after touching its lowest-ever seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 3.8% in May. The preliminary average monthly jobless rate in Arkansas during 2015 was 5.4%. Arkansas’ average jobless rate for 2014 was 6.1%, down from the 7.4% average in 2013.

The closely-watched nonfarm employment in Arkansas saw a seasonal decline of 16,700 positions in July to total 1,215,000. Six major industry sectors decreased, more than offsetting gains in three sectors. Government posted the largest drop (-12,300), while seasonal losses occurred in local (-10,600) and state (-1,700) government, related to summer break at public schools, state labor officials said.

Jobs in trade, transportation, and utilities declined 2,300. A majority of the decrease was in retail trade (-1,400), attributed to reported losses at various retail establishments. Employment in leisure and hospitality is down 2,300. Most of the contraction occurred in food services (-1,800), related in part to temporary shutdowns in school cafeterias and contract services. Construction added 1,200 jobs, related to seasonal hiring and on-going large-scale projects. Compared to July 2015, however, Arkansas’ nonfarm payroll jobs increased 21,300. Growth was reported in eight major industry sectors, while two decreased.

In July, the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector – Arkansas’ largest job sector – employment lost 2,300 jobs to fall to an estimated 255,900 workers in the labor pool, compared to 258,200 in June and 251,900 a year ago.

Just ahead of the back-to-school hiring rush, the Education and Health Services sector declined by 600 jobs in July and now has 178,500 workers in the state’s overflowing labor pool, compared with 179,100 in June and 171,000 in the same period a year ago.

The manufacturing sector in Arkansas saw a decline of 900 jobs in July and now as 153,700 blue collar workers across the state. A year ago there were 155,000 manufacturing jobs in Arkansas, well-off peak employment of 247,300 in the sector in February 1995.

The government saw a double-digit decline of 12.3% from a year ago after the Arkansas Department of Health sold its in-home health care operations to Kentucky-based Kindred Healthcare, resulting in hundreds of state workers being moved off state payrolls. There are now 199,000 government workers in the state’s labor pool, down from 211,300 in June and 198,700 a year ago.

The construction sector employed an estimated 50,800 In July, up 1,200 when compared to June and even with year ago levels. The sector is well off its employment high of 57,600 reached in May 2007.

Arkansas’ thriving tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) dropped 2,300 workers with only one month left in the traditional vacation season that ends on Labor Day weekend. There are now 116,100 workers in the state’s tourism sector, down from 118,400 a month ago but well ahead of year ago levels of 113,700.

Mining and logging, which includes the state’s oil and gas sector, continued on its downward path, losing another 100 jobs in July. There are now only 6,700 mining jobs in Arkansas, down 1,300 from 7,900 positions in July 2015.