Arkansas jobless rate holds at 3.8%, employment numbers show little change

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 213 views 

Arkansas’ tight job market held serve in March in line with the national trend where unemployment rates in nearly all 50 states reported little or no change at the end of the first quarter, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday (April 20).

Between February and March, Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.8% as the state’s 1,353,025-person labor pool declined by 742, a result of 1,291 fewer employed and 549 workers exiting the work force.

“Arkansas’ unemployment rate remained at 3.8% in March, mirroring the trend seen at the national level. The State’s jobless rate is currently three-tenths of a percentage point lower than that of the U.S.,” said Susan Price, operations manager for the state Department of Workforce Services’ BLS program.

Two weeks ago, the BLS reported that nation’s jobless rate held steady for the sixth straight month at 4.1% as the U.S. labor market added just over 100,000 jobs to payroll. That led U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta to applaud the U.S. employment picture under President Donald Trump’s 15-month long watch.

Nationwide, the BLS reported unemployment rates were lower in March in 4 states, higher in 1 state, and stable in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Seventeen states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier and 33 states and the District had little or no change. The national jobless rate is four percentage points lower than a year ago.

Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate in March at a tidy 2.1%, while Kentucky (4%) and Maine (2.7%) set new series lows. Alaska had the highest jobless rate at 7.3%. Texas and Utah had over-the-month increases in nonfarm payroll employment in March with job additions at 32,000 and 6,300, respectively.

In Arkansas, nonfarm payroll jobs in Arkansas increased 9,700 in March to total 1,243,300. Seven major industry sectors posted gains, with four adding 1,100 or more jobs each. Employment in leisure and hospitality rose 3,400, a typical seasonal expansion.

Trade, transportation, and utilities increased 2,900. Growth occurred in all three subsectors, signaling the start of the spring shopping season. Professional and business services added 1,900 jobs, almost all in administrative and support services. Government hiring jumped by 1,100, mostly at the state and local level.

Compared to a year ago, Arkansas’ nonfarm payroll employment is up 4,900. Growth was reported in seven major industry sectors, including 2,000 new positions in the rebounding manufacturing sector as both nondurable and durable factories boosted employer payrolls to 158,400.

Employment in educational and health services rose 1,900 with additions in health care and social assistance largely offsetting the minor loss in educational services. Jobs in construction declined 1,200 over the year, due in part to the weather. Employment in information is down 1,200. Professional & business services and “other” services also saw minor declines.

Despite the noted decline of construction jobs in Arkansas, the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America reported that 29 states have added jobs in the jobs in that blue-collar sector between February and March amid strong private-sector demand and new public-sector investments in school and airport construction.

“Construction employment continues to expand in most parts of the country as private-sector demand remains strong and limited, new public investments in infrastructure are beginning to have an impact,” said chief economist Ken Simonson. “The two greatest risks to future construction job growth are a lack of available, qualified workers and the potential impacts of new tariffs being imposed by and on the United States.”

AGC officials said the widespread job gains in the bellwether construction sector is welcome news, but cautioned that new tariffs announced by the Trump administration and counter measures from other trading partners could undermine demand for construction of shipping, logistics and manufacturing facilities.

“There are better ways to address trade imbalances than by undermining domestic economic growth,” said Stephen Sandherr, AGC’s CEO.

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