UA economist discusses low unemployment, rising deficits and pay equity

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 665 views 

Economist Mervin Jebaraj said that Arkansas’ record low unemployment rate is a positive, but he warned that it could still be revised like it has in previous instances.

Jebaraj, director of the UA Walton College of Business Center for Business and Economic Research, said there are other encouraging factors around the latest jobs report, including that wage growth is growing, albeit slowly, and the labor force participation rate continues to improve incrementally.

“We’ve been here before as you’ve mentioned and we’ve had the record low unemployment rate at least a few different times. Unfortunately, in previous instances, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has gone back and revised away our record low unemployment rate. So I’d probably wait til about March of 2020 when the revisions come out before we put that banner out that says, ‘Oh, record low unemployment rate,'” said Jebaraj, who appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics.

“Nonetheless, looking at the data within it, the labor force [participation rate] did go up about .1%. So we’re trying to get that labor force participation rate up in our Arkansas, so that’s movement in a positive direction,” he added. “Wage increases [have] gone up about 1.2% to 1.3% after accounting for inflation and reduced working hours. That’s also positive, but again, before the recession that number used to be about 2%. So we’d really like to see some stronger wage growth, which we really haven’t seen in spite of these really low unemployment rates.”

The labor force participation rate in Arkansas has improved from a 55.7 reading in January 2019 to 56.0 in June 2019. The U.S. rate was 62.9% in June. The rate refers to the number of people available for work as a percentage of the total population.

Jebaraj also discussed factors contributing to the rising federal deficit, which is growing despite a healthy economy. He also outlined reasons why a pay disparity exists between male and female U.S. Soccer players, which has been a focal point of debate in a larger national pay equity conversation.

Watch his full interview here.