Arkansas’ jobless rate unchanged at 4% for third straight month as hiring pace slows

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 20 views 

Arkansas’ jobless rate remained unchanged for the third straight month in November as employers in the high-paying professional and businesses service supersector continued to add new positions although growth leveled off in other industries.

Labor force data, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and released Friday (Dec. 16) by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, shows Arkansas’ unemployment rate for November at 4%, the same as in September and October.

“Arkansas’ unemployment rate remained at 4% for the third consecutive month, despite small declines in both employment and unemployment. Compared to November 2015, there are currently 24,265 more employed Arkansans,” said Susan Price, program manager for Arkansas’ BLS operations.

According to the BLS, unemployment rates were significantly lower in November in 18 states and stable in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Nine states had notable jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, 2 states had increases, and 39 states and the District had no significant change.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.6% in November, down from 4.9% in October, and down from 5% in November 2015. The improved job market was one of the key reasons the Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday decided to raise interest rates a quarter point to 3/4% despite a dour outlook for 2017.

According to Manpower’s recent employment outlook for 2017, staffing levels are expected to increase by 19% among U.S. employers surveyed in the first quarter, while 6% anticipate a decline in employment levels. A further 73% of U.S. employers expect no change in hiring activity.

Hiring intentions for the U.S. as a whole are 2 percentage points weaker when compared with the previous quarter, but remain relatively stable when compared with Quarter 1 2016, Manpower said. In the South region, which includes Arkansas, hiring prospects in the first quarter of 2017 are slightly lower the fourth quarter of 2016 and slightly weaker than a year ago.

Are to Arkansas’ monthly employment snapshot, the state’s closely-watched nonfarm employment declined by 800 positions in November to 1,236,900. Seven major industry lost jobs, while six sectors saw minor gains in employment, state labor officials said. Compared to a year ago, Arkansas’ nonfarm payroll employment rose 8,700. Six major industry sectors added jobs, while five sectors posted declines. Employment in professional and business services increased 5,800.  Jobs in educational and health services rose 5,800, mostly in health care and social assistance (+5,400).

In November, the government sector added another 1,600 workers as local and county officials added temporary workers to payrolls ahead of the presidential election. There are now 218,700 government workers in the state’s growing labor pool, compared to 217,100 in September and 218,500 a year ago.

Trade, transportation and utilities, the state’s largest sector, added 1,000 positions in November as the trucking industry saw hiring levels improve. There are now 255,800 workers in the state’s largest sector, up 1,400 from a month ago but 2,800 below year ago levels.

The fast-growing professional and business services also picked up another 1,000 workers in November, pushing yearly totals up to 146,500. Compared to a year ago, the white-collar service sector is up 4.1%, adding 5,800 higher paying jobs to the state’s economy.

The up-and-down manufacturing sector in Arkansas added 500 jobs in November as several employers made hiring announcements across the state. There are now has 153,700 blue collar workers, just below the 153,800 a year ago and well-off peak employment of 247,300 in the sector in February 1995.

However, the Education and Health Services sector now has 184,600 workers in the state’s tight labor pool, down 1,500 from a month ago. Still, this sector has seen steady growth in the past decade with employment up 3.24% in the past year.

The construction sector lost its recent momentum as an estimated 1,700 jobs were left on the sidelines as colder weather slows down building projects. Through November, that sector now has 49,100 workers, compared to 50,800 in October and 49,500 in the same period a year ago. The sector is well off the employment high of 57,600 reached in May 2007.

Mining and logging, which includes the state’s oil and gas sector, continued a two-year long slump with a loss of 100 jobs in November. There are now 6,500 mining jobs in Arkansas, down from 7,600 workers a year ago.

Leisure and hospitality lost 200 jobs in November and now has 113,300 workers compared to 112,800 a year ago. Financial services also lost 300 jobs, and other services added 100 positions.

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