Arkansas jobless rate stays at 3.6%, state payrolls grow by 2,200

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 293 views 

Arkansas’ jobless rate remained at 3.6% for the second straight month as the employers in most industries continued to post “help wanted” signs at the end of 2018 and into the New Year.

According to monthly labor force data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released Friday (Jan. 18) by the state Department of Workforce Services, Arkansas’ jobless rate held steady between November and December as 2,202 workers were added to the labor pool, a result of 1,276 more employed and 926 unemployed now getting paychecks.

“Arkansas’ unemployment rate remained fairly stable throughout 2018, ending the year down one-tenth of a percentage point compared to January,” said Susan Price, program manager of Arkansas’ BLS group. “While the U.S. jobless rate also trended down over the year, Arkansas is still three-tenths of a percentage point below the national rate.”

Arkansas’ solid unemployment data follows the earlier U.S. jobless report that lifted the U.S. stock market after the U.S. Labor Department reported that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 312,000 in December. Still, the nation’s unemployment rate rose 0.2% to 3.9% as strong job gains were noted in healthcare, food services and drinking places, construction, manufacturing and retail trade.

Similarly, the widely-held ADP National Employment Report that highlights the nation’s private sector showed U.S. employers filled some 271,000 positions in the last month of 2018. That report, which is derived from ADP’s actual payroll data, measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

Despite recent swoons in the stock market and the ongoing trade war, labor force experts still predict robust U.S. job growth well into 2019 after ending the year on such a strong note.

“We wrapped up 2018 with another month of significant growth in the labor market,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “Although there were increases in most sectors, the busy holiday season greatly impacted both trade and leisure and hospitality. Small businesses also experienced their strongest month of job growth all year.”

Added Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics: “Businesses continue to add aggressively to their payrolls despite the stock market slump and the trade war. Favorable December weather also helped lift the job market. At the current pace of job growth, low unemployment will get even lower.”

In December, nonfarm payroll jobs in Arkansas fell by 3,500 to 1,261,400 as seven major sectors lost ground. The greatest decrease was in leisure and hospitality at 2,000 as many subsectors across the tourism-related industry experience seasonal contractions until early spring. Employment in the fast-growing professional and business services is down by 1,200 with most losses in administrative and support services.

On the other hand, the state’s manufacturing sector was among the three industries that saw gains in December. With a total of 1,400 new job jobs, expansions were reported at both nondurable and factories at 900 and 500, respectively.

For the year, nonfarm payroll jobs have increased by 16,500. Growth has occurred in eight major industry sectors, with five adding 2,100 or more jobs each. Employment in professional and business services has topped all sectors with 4,200 new positions, main in administrative and support services adding 2,600 jobs.

The steady manufacturing has increased by 3.900 and now stands at 161,900 workers, up from 158,000 in December 2017.  Jobs in leisure and hospitality also rose by 2,700 with expansions in accommodation and food services, while educational and health services filled 2,200 over the 12-month period. The construction trade, which is struggling to hire enough workers, also great by 2,100 due partly to ongoing projects across the state.

Nationally, unemployment rates in December were higher in four states, lower in three states, and stable in the remaining 43 states and the District of Columbia, BLS data shows. Iowa has moved ahead of Hawaii with the lowest unemployment rate in July at 2.4%, while Alaska continues to have the nation’s highest jobless rate at 6.3%.

In Arkansas, BLS data shows there were 1,256,100 nonfarm jobs in Arkansas, up 1.4% from 1,239,000 in December 2017. However, the state’s total civilian labor force, which includes sole proprietors, private household employees, unpaid volunteers, farm workers and unincorporated self-employed merchants, declined from 1,356,940 to 1,350,399, a loss of 6,541 positions over the past year.