Arkansas’ jobless rate at 3.6% in March, sets another record low

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 347 views 

A reduction in the state’s available labor pool and a year-over-year gain of more than 2,000 jobs helped push Arkansas’ March jobless rate to a new record low of 3.6%.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data published Friday (April 21) show the March jobless rate in Arkansas was 3.6%, down from 3.7% in January and better than the 4.1% in March 2016. The U.S. jobless rate in March was 4.5%.

Arkansas’ labor force totaled 1.341 million in March, down 4,305 compared to 1.345 million March 2016. The number of employed was an estimated 1,292,574 in March, up 2,094 jobs compared to the 1,290,525 in March 2016. The number of unemployed in Arkansas totaled 48,609 in March, well below the 54,963 in March 2016.

“Colorado had the lowest unemployment rate in March, 2.6 percent, closely followed by Hawaii, 2.7 percent, and New Hampshire, North Dakota, and South Dakota, 2.8 percent each. The rates in Arkansas (3.6 percent), Colorado (2.6 percent), Maine (3.0 percent), and Oregon (3.8 percent) set new series lows. New Mexico had the highest jobless rate, 6.7 percent,” noted the BLS report.

Some economists say the commonly reported “U-3” rate – the 3.6% estimate in March – does not capture the entire employment picture. The U-6 rate includes the total unemployed “plus all marginally attached workers” and those “employed part time for economic reasons,” according to the BLS. Federal data is not available monthly for a state U-6 rate. The most recent reporting was for the 2016 average. In 2016, Arkansas’ average monthly U-3 jobless rate was 3.9% and the U-6 rate was 7.5%. The average monthly U-3 jobless rate in the U.S. was 4.9% in 2016, and the average monthly U-6 rate was 9.6%.

Arkansas’ benchmark nonfarm employment of 1,240,500 fell slightly in March compared to February but was up 14,000 jobs compared to March 2016.

Professional and business services had an estimated 147,800 jobs in March, better than the 146,600 in February and up 5,700 jobs compared to March 2016.

In February, Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector – Arkansas’ largest job sector – jobs totaled 253,300, up from 252,900 in February and better than the 252,700 in March 2016.

Jobs in the Education and Health Services sector reached 185,500 in March, down from 187,500 in February but ahead of the 179,000 in March 2016. The February total was a record for the sector. This sector has seen growth of 12.5% since 2010.

Arkansas’ struggling manufacturing sector had employment of 157,300 in March, just ahead of the 157,200 in February, and up 3,100 jobs compared to March 2016. The sector saw peak employment more than 20 years ago when employment topped out at 247,300 in February 1995.

Government hiring continues to trend lower, with 211,900 employed in the sector in March, down from the 213,700 in March 2016. Government jobs have declined 2.35% in the past five years.

Jobs in the construction sector fell slightly, but not enough to reverse a trend that began in early 2014. Sector jobs totaled 50,200 in March, down 51,000 in February and down from 50,600 in March 2016. However, the sector is well below the employment high of 57,600 reached in May 2007.

Arkansas’ growing tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) added 500 jobs, reaching 115,900 in March, up from 115,400 in March 2016. Sector employment reached a record 116,700 jobs in October 2016.