Arkansas jobless rate holds at 3.7%, nearly 8,000 nonfarm jobs added in 2017

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 300 views 

Arkansas’ unemployment rate held steady entering 2018 as the state’s education, healthcare, manufacturing and professional and business sectors helped expand the economy by adding nearly 8,000 jobs over the past year.

According to new labor force data provided Monday (March 12) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 3.7% for the third straight month. The state’s civilian labor force declined 1,521 between months, a result of 1,879 fewer employed and 358 more unemployed Arkansans.

“While original estimations showed the number of employed Arkansans declined last year, revised 2017 estimates have been released and now indicate employment trended up throughout 2017,” said Arkansas BLS Program Operations Manager Susan Price. “The unemployment rate has also been very consistent over the last year, remaining close to 3.7%.”

Arkansas’ jobless rate in January is now just four-tenths of a percentage point 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 held 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, nonfarm payroll U.S. employment spiked up 313,000 jobs 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. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 68 cents, or 2.6%.

In the highly-watched ADP national employment report released last week, private sector employment increased by 235,000 jobs from January to February with the rapidly expanding service sector gains accounting for 198,000 job adds.

“The labor market continues to experience uninterrupted growth,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “We see persistent gains across most industries with leisure and hospitality and retail leading the way as consumer spending kicked up.  At this pace of job growth, employers will soon become hard-pressed to find qualified workers.”

Added Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics: “The job market is red hot and threatens to overheat. With government spending increasing and tax cuts, growth is set to accelerate.”

In Arkansas, however, nonfarm payroll jobs decreased by 22,000 in January to total 1,222,900 as employment in nine major industry sectors declined. Trade, transportation and utilities posted the greatest contraction with 6,600 losses spread across the industry brought on by the end of temporary hiring for the holidays.

Jobs in government fell by 6,000 in January because of the winter break at public education facilities. Professional and business services lost 4,500 as layoffs occurred in administrative and support services hired by employment agencies. Seasonal contractions were also reported in construction and the state’s vibrant tourism and hospitality industries.

Year-over-year, Arkansas’ nonfarm payroll employment is up 6,300. Seven major industry sectors posted growth, while four sectors declined. Jobs in educational and health services saw the biggest growth with 3,000 job adds, mostly in the health care and social assistance subsectors.

The state’s manufacturing sector continued to surprise as more than 2,400 blue collar workers were added to factory payrolls, mostly at nondurable goods manufacturers that produce “soft” consumer goods consumed immediately or with a short shelf life.

Employment in the state’s professional and business services increased by 2,100 in January. Most of the hiring occurred in administrative and support services, which was offset by layoffs at the management level. Trade, transportation, and utilities hiring posted the greatest decline at 2,600 as workers in the retail trade were sent to the unemployment line following the hiring ramp-up during the holiday shopping season.

Nationally, unemployment rates were lower in January in six states and the District of Columbia and held steady in 44 states, including Arkansas, the BLS reported. Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate in January (2.1%), while the rate in Alabama (3.7%), California (4.4%), Maine (3%), and Mississippi (4.6%) set new series lows.