Arkansas’ jobless rate crept up one-tenth of a percentage point in February as the number of unemployed persons in the state’s brimming labor pool continued to grow, according to labor force data provided Friday (March 23) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS).
After holding steady at 3.7% for three straight months, Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged up to 3.8% as the state’s civilian labor force declined 1,521 between months, a result of 1,879 fewer employed and 358 more unemployed Arkansans.
“Arkansas’ unemployment rate rose one-tenth of percentage point in February, pushed up by the slight decline in the civilian labor force. Compared to February 2017, Arkansas’ civilian labor force has grown by 4,659,” said Susan Price, BLS program manager for the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.
Arkansas’ jobless rate remains below the U.S. jobless rate at 4.1%. Earlier in 2017 when the state’s jobless rate fell to an all-time low during the summer months, the gap between the state and U.S. employment rate was a full point.
U.S. unemployment, however, has remained at 4.1% for the fifth straight month with more than 1 million jobs added to U.S. payrolls as employers in the construction, retail trade, professional and business services, manufacturing, financial activities and oil and gas sectors continue to post “help wanted” signs.
In February, U.S. employers added a robust 313,000 jobs to payrolls and average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 4 cents to $26.75, following a 7-cent gain in January. Despite the robust state and U.S. job marketplace, University of Arkansas at Little Rock economist Michael Pakko said the number of unemployed workers in the state’s 1,353,589 labor pool is growing.
“After recent data revisions reduced estimated employment growth considerably for 2017, incoming figures for 2018 indicate a continuing trend of stagnant growth,” Pakko noted on his Arkansas Economist blog. “Household employment was down by 1,800 in February, following a January decline of 1,900. The number of unemployed was essentially unchanged in February, but has been creeping upward for nearly a year.”
Pakko also said the gradual rise in the state jobless rate is directly related to declines in employment so far in 2018.
“Nevertheless, the important point is that Arkansas’ unemployment rate remains exceptionally low by historical standards,” he said.
For the month, nonfarm payroll jobs decreased by 9,200 in February to total 1,232,100 as six major industries added jobs, while four posted minor declines. The largest increase occurred in government at 4,900 as public colleges and universities returned from the holiday break.
Jobs in professional and business services rose 2,600 due to new hires in administrative and support services, a subsector that includes employment agencies. Leisure and hospitality also added 2,200 jobs as hiring in food services ramps up after the winter. Trade, transportation, and utilities reported the greatest loss at 1,400 following seasonal declines in the retail trade.
Year-over-year, Arkansas’ nonfarm payroll employment is up 2,000. Eight major industry sectors posted growth, while three sectors declined. Jobs in the manufacturing sector rose by 1,500, due in large part to reported expansions at nondurable factories that produce food and other soft goods.
Employment in the state’s educational and health services sector added 1,500 jobs, all in health care and social assistance. The trade, transportation, and utilities sector declined by 2,000 as brick-and-mortar retailers experienced layoffs and closures. Jobs in information fell by 1,100 due to reported contractions in activities such as telecommunications and data processing-hosting.
Nationally, unemployment rates were lower in February in seven states and held steady in 43 states and the District of Columbia, the BLS reported. Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate in January (2.1%), while the rates in California (4.3%), Maine (2.9%), Mississippi (4.5%) and Wisconsin (2.9%) set new series lows. Alaska had the highest jobless rate at 7.3%.