Arkansas ranks 2nd in U.S. nonfarm job gains, civilian labor pool nears all-time high

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 480 views 

New data from the U.S. Labor Department shows that Arkansas had the second-largest percentage gain in nonfarm payroll U.S. employment over the past 12 months, adding nearly 33,000 jobs to an economy that is brimming with a near-record tally of workers coming into the state’s civilian labor pool.

According to recent data compiled by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Arkansas trailed only Oregon in the percentage of year-over-year increases in nonfarm payroll employment posted in July. That new ranking will likely add another key talking point to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s frequent job-focused speeches about Arkansas’ burgeoning job market under his leadership.

Gov. Hutchinson said it was “great news” that the BLS report landed on his desk this weekend, offering confirmation that the state is moving in the right direction in terms of job creation.

“It is great anytime we are tied for second in job creation and job growth and ranked among some of the fastest-performing states,” the Republican governor said. “That really reflects the bubbling economy that we have here in Arkansas.”

Hutchinson added that what is just as exciting about the recent spike in job growth and low unemployment rate in Arkansas is that new workers are continuing to come into the Arkansas labor pool, noting the total of 9,100 workers that were just added to the state’s economy in July.

Nationwide, 29 states and the District of Columbia had over-the-year spikes in nonfarm payroll employment in July with the largest job numerical gains in Texas (+293,400), California (+276,400), and Florida (+226,200). The largest percentage gain occurred in Oregon at 2.9%, followed by Arkansas, Florida and Nevada each at 2.7%.

For the month, 11 states and the District of Columbia had over-the-month increases in nonfarm payroll employment in July. The largest increase in employment over the month occurred in California (+82,600), followed by Florida (+32,700) and Pennsylvania (+29,000). In percentage terms, the largest increases occurred in the District of Columbia, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island (+0.6 percent each). Georgia had the only significant employment decrease (-14,100, or -0.3 percent).

The BLS data was released on Friday in conjunction with the state’s monthly unemployment, which showed that Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at the all-time low of 3.4% in July, dropping 0.9 percentage points below the declining U.S. jobless rate. There were also 9,100 new workers added to Arkansas payrolls between June and July.

The recent BLS data also shows Arkansas added 32,700 nonfarm payroll positions to the state’s growing economy in the past year. The closely-watched nonfarm payrolls data from the Labor Department’s statistical arm refers to any job with the exception of farm work, unincorporated self-employment, private household jobs and positions with the military and intelligence agencies.

Since becoming governor in January 2015, Arkansas civilian labor pool as grown by 53,504 to 1,374,616, a mix of 1,328,119 employed workers and 46,497 jobseekers on state unemployment rolls. The number of employed workers in Arkansas hit an all-time high in May at 1,309,035 and has continued on any upward path since.

The strong BLS national ranking for nonfarm jobs gains, along with the all-time high number of employed workers and near-record, brimming civilian labor pool are happening at the same time that Arkansas’ jobless rate is stretching new boundaries.

In May, Arkansas’ unemployment rate touched a fifth straight all-time low at 3.4%, dropping a full percentage point below the declining U.S. jobless rate. Since then, the state’s unemployment figure has remained unchanged in June and July as more than 18,000 new jobs have been added to employer payrolls across the state.

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