Nearly 10,000 workers added to Arkansas workforce, jobless rate unchanged

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 281 views 

For the first time in several months, Arkansas jobless rate remained unchanged at an all-time record low of 3.4% as thousands of new positions were added to the state’s burgeoning labor pool.

Arkansas’ civilian labor pool has 1,364,533 positions filled in June as the state’s labor force increased by 9,243 workers, a result of 9,481 more employed and 238 fewer unemployed Arkansans, according to monthly labor force data produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and released by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.

“Employment in Arkansas increased 9,481 in June, breaking last month’s record high for the State. There are now 28,681 more employed Arkansans than in June 2016,” said Susan Price, operations manager for the state’s BLS program.

Last month, Arkansas’ unemployment rate touched a fifth straight all-time low in May at 3.4%, sliding a full percentage point below the U.S. unemployment rate as the number of employed added 19,003 workers to reach employment of 1.309 million. Two weeks ago, the U.S. jobless rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point in June to 4.4% as 211,000 new workers were added to the nation’s labor pool.

Nationwide, the number of unemployed persons held at about 7 million and labor force participation, at 62.8%, continued to show no clear trend over the past year. Since January, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed are down by 0.4 percentage points and 658,000, respectively.

Across the U.S., unemployment rates were lower in June in 10 states, higher in 2 states, and stable in 38 states and the District of Columbia, BLS data shows Twenty-seven states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier and 23 states and the District had little or no change. Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 14 states in June 2017 and was essentially unchanged in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, 33 states added nonfarm payroll jobs and 17 states and the District were essentially unchanged.

Colorado and North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rates in June, 2.3% each. The rates in North Dakota (2.3%) and Tennessee (3.6%) set new series lows, while Alaska and New Mexico had the highest jobless rates at 6.8% and 6.4%, respectively. Altogether, Arkansas and nine other states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. average of 4.4%, 5 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 26 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.

In Arkansas, the state’s’ benchmark nonfarm employment of 1,251,700 fell slightly in June by 2,700 workers as three major sectors posted declines and eight industries saw moderate growth. Employment in government fell 5,300, as seasonal losses were reported in state and local government related to the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

Rare job losses were reported in professional and business services, which fell by 4,900 as administrative and support services attributed in part to a decline in seasonal jobs provided by employment agencies.

In June, the trade, transportation and utilities sector – Arkansas’ largest job sector – jobs totaled 256,100, up from 253,400 in May and a robust 4,000 increase from 252,100 a year ago.

Jobs in the education and health services sector reached 185,200 in June, down 1,000 from 186,200 in May but well ahead of the 177,800 in the same period of 2016. The May total was a record for the sector, which has grown 5% in the past 12 months.

Arkansas’ surprising manufacturing sector had employment of 157,800 in June, up 800 from last month and more than 2,900 from 154,900 in the same period 2016. The sector saw peak employment more than 20 years ago when employment topped out at 247,300 in February 1995.

Hiring in the construction sector remained flat as 800 jobs were added to the state’s total of 51,600 in June, down from 50,800 in May and 51,500 in June 2016.

Arkansas’ fast-growing leisure and hospitality sector continue to add jobs as many of the state’s top tourist destinations added workers for the busy season. The sector added 2,800 jobs in June and now has a total of 123,000 workers, a new record and well ahead of 119,200 positions a year ago. In May, the sector had 120,200 workers.

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