More Arkansans exit workforce in June, jobless rate holds at 3.8% as labor shortage concerns grow

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 385 views 

Arkansas’ labor force saw a loss of nearly 1,400 positions in June, but the state’s jobless rate remained hedged in at 4% for the fifth month as worries about the tightening labor pool continue to threaten further job growth going into the second half of the year.

In June, the state’s jobless rate held at 3.8% as the civilian labor force declined BY 1,348 to 1,349,214 workers, a result of 951 fewer employed and 397 fewer unemployed Arkansans. There are now 6,254 fewer workers in the state’s job marketplace than a year ago, according to monthly data produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by the state Department of Workforce Services (DWS).

Earlier this month, the nation’s unemployment climbed from 3.8% to 4%, highlighted by continued growth in professional business services, health care and the manufacturing sector. However, employers in many of those fast-growing industries are increasingly worried about labor shortages to fill key high-skilled blue- and white-collar positions.

On Thursday, however, in an effort to quell some of those industry concerns about rising labor shortages, President Donald Trump issued an executive order supporting the U.S. Labor Department’s efforts to establish the National Council for the American Worker and the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board.

“President Trump’s executive order represents a national commitment to helping Americans upskill and reskill to embrace rapidly changing job demands,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. “A blend of traditional and workplace lifelong learning is required for a nimble workforce ready to succeed in overcoming any challenge.

“As a result of the president’s action, companies are signing pledges to invest in millions of working Americans. Investing in the greatest workforce in the world – the American workforce – will yield great returns,” said Acosta.

Meanwhile, the Associated General Contractors of America also recently noted that many construction firms appear to be more willing to hire amid lower tax rates and a more favorable business environment, but are still cautious about trade fights and labor shortages that could pose risks to future growth.

“The construction industry continues to add workers faster than the economy as a whole, and the industry is paying premium wages to attract and retain those workers,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The employment gains are occurring in both residential and nonresidential construction. However, the industry is having to rely more and more on workers without construction experience, as the pool of unemployed construction workers has nearly evaporated.”

Nationally, construction employment increased by 13,000 jobs in June and by 282,000 jobs over the past year, reaching a 10-year high. In Arkansas, the construction sector was the top advancer in June, adding 1,900 new jobs during the typical expansion period in the summer.

Statewide, however, nonfarm payroll jobs declined 4,900 in June to total 1,250,700. Employment decreased in five major industry sectors, while four sectors expanded and two were unchanged. The largest drop occurred in government as most public schools and universities head into the summer break.

Employment in educational and health services declined 1,500 as private schools also began closing for the summer. Besides the construction sector, employment in professional and business services rose by 1,200 as high-skilled technical and startup jobs were added to the state’s economy.

Compared to a year ago, nonfarm payroll employment in Arkansas is up 10,200. Six major industry sectors posted growth, more than offsetting the losses in four sectors. The largest increase occurred in professional and business services at 7,100 with key growth noted in subsectors such as temporary help services, landscaping, and telephone call centers.

Although down by 800 jobs in June, the manufacturing sector has still added 2,500 positions year-over-year in both the “soft goods” nondurable factors and industrial-heavy durable goods plants that produce long-lasting products such as appliances, machinery and sports equipment. Jobs in educational and health services have also risen by 2,000 for the year.

In a surprising turn, the state’s leisure and hospitality sector has seen a decline 1,200. Those losses could possibly tie to a report earlier this year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and other trade groups, highlighting industry concerns that global inbound travel to the U.S. was down dramatically in 2017 and early 2018 due to the Trump administration’s policy to cut visa and other travel programs to the U.S.

Jobs in information have also dropped by 1,000 over the past year as layoffs in newspaper publishing, television broadcasting and satellite telecommunications have pushed some workers to end up in the unemployment line or seeking new careers.