Arkansas unemployment rate touches all-time low of 3.5%

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 375 views 

Arkansas’ jobless rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.5% in June, matching the state’s all-time low first touched twice in 2017 and 2018 as employment levels across the state peaked for the fifth straight month, state Division of Workforce Services officials reported Friday (July 19).

Closing out the first half of 2019 with growth in a continuing strong job market in Arkansas, state labor force data shows the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined from 3.6% in May to 3.5% in June. Arkansas’ civilian labor increased by 741, a result of 1,949 additional employed and 1,208 fewer unemployed Arkansans, according to job data produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by DWS.

“Arkansas’ unemployment rate declined to 3.5% in June, setting a new record low,” noted Arkansas BLS Program Operations Manager Susan Price. “The addition of 1,949 employed Arkansans also set a new record, with employment reaching record high levels for the last five consecutive months.”

Arkansas unemployment levels first touched an all-time low of 3.5% during a three-month stretch in the summer of 2017 and again in September and October of 2018. The state’s jobless rate first fell below 4% in June 2016, the first time at that level since state labor officials began compiling such records. The state’s unemployment rate is also now below the nation’s jobless rate, which climbed to 3.7% in June.

As noted, the state’s labor force – the number of people eligible to work – rose by 741 to 1,362,631, up 0.9% or 13,034 from June 2018. The total number of people employed rose by 1,949 to a record 1,315,337. Arkansans without jobs in June totaled 47,294, down from 48,502 in May and the 48,502 unemployed in the same period a year ago.

Compared to a year ago, the state’s nonfarm payroll jobs decreased by 5,000 to 1,278,000 as declines were posted in five major industries, which offset gains in six sectors. Employment in government dropped 6,200, mainly due to summer break at public schools and universities. Jobs in educational and health services fell by 2,600 for the same reason as key losses were occurred in administrative and support services, a subsector which includes employment agencies.

The largest increase of 3,300 occurred in leisure and hospitality as Arkansas tourism industry ramps up for its peak summer vacation season. There is now a total of 126,500 workers in the state’s tourism industry with most of those positions in the accommodations and food service industry.

For the year, Arkansas’ nonfarm payroll jobs has increased by 19,300 with growth occurring in nine major industry sectors, with four adding 2,400 or more jobs. Leisure and hospitality gained 5,500 jobs, while the blue collar-focused manufacturing sector added some 3,800 at both durable and nondurable factories.

Construction hiring also rose by 2,900 jobs, related in part to on-going large projects around the state. Employment in trade, transportation, and utilities increased 2,400 with key gains in the retail and wholesale trade areas. Notable additions were also posted in educational and health services, professional and business services and financial activities at 1,900, 800 and 1,000 new positions, respectively.

Earlier this month, BLS reported that the nation’s jobless rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.7% in June. At the time, U.S. Labor Department officials highlighted U.S. wage growth and the 224,000 new jobs added to the U.S. economy for the month. However, that same report included data showing that the 224,000 and 75,000 jobs added to U.S. payrolls in April and May, respectively, were revised downward by a total of 11,000 positions.

Nationally, notable job gains were posted in professional and business services, health care, and transportation and warehousing. Unemployment rates were lower in June in 6 states and stable in 44 states and the District of Columbia, BLS data shows.

Vermont had the lowest unemployment rate with an all-time low at 2.1%, while Alaska continues to post the highest jobless rate at 6.4%. Vermont had the lowest unemployment rate in June, 2.1 percent. The rates in Alabama, Arkansas and New Jersey, all at 3.5%, set new lows. Texas, which had the nation’s largest job gains at 315,600, also touched an all-time low at 3.4%.

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