Arkansas job numbers up 1.25% in 2019, jobless rate holds at 3.6% in December

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 397 views 

Arkansas’ jobless rate was 3.6% in December, unchanged from November, and below the 3.7% in December 2018. Year-over-year, the state economy added 16,396 jobs, a 1.25% increase according to data posted Friday (Jan. 24) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of employed in Arkansas during December was an estimated 1,319,789, up 16,396 jobs compared with December 2018. The state’s labor force – the number of people eligible to work – was 1,368,565 in December up 1.14% compared with the 1,353,091 in December 2018. The December numbers are preliminary and subject to revision.

Arkansans without jobs in December totaled 48,776, up from 48,562 in December 2018 but below the 49,698 unemployed in November.

Sectors with the biggest year-over-year gains were Education and Health Services (5,600 new jobs), Professional and Business Services (4,700), and Leisure and Hospitality (2,800).

Greg Kaza, economist and director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, said the December figures show that Arkansas is doing better than some neighbor states in this ongoing economic expansion.

“U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows Arkansas payroll employment has expanded at a higher percentage rate than Oklahoma in the current expansion (2009-), reversing Arkansas’ rank behind its western neighbor in the previous expansion (2001-2007),” Kaza noted in a memo to Talk Business & Politics.

Following are growth rates in surrounding states during the past two expansion cycles.
• December 2001 to December 2007
Texas: 11.5%
Oklahoma: 6%
Tennessee: 5.6%
Arkansas: 5.2%
Missouri: 3.5%
Mississippi: 3.1%
Louisiana: 1.6%

• Ongoing Expansion (began in June 2009)
Texas: 25.8%
Tennessee : 20.4%
Arkansas: 10.9%
Oklahoma: 8%
Missouri: 8.2%
Mississippi: 6.6%
Louisiana: 4.8%

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation, and Utilities sector – the state’s largest job category – was 255,700 in December, up from 254,800 in November and up from the 253,300 in December 2018. If it stands, the December 2019 employment set a new record for the sector.

The Government sector employed 212,800 in December, down from 212,900 in November and unchanged from December 2018. Sector employment hit a peak of 224,100 in May 2010.

The Education and Health Services sector employed 197,500 in December, up from the 195,500 in November and above the 191,900 in December 2018. December set a record for sector employment.

Arkansas’ manufacturing sector had 163,900 jobs, up from 163,300 in November and more than the 163,100 jobs in December 2018. Manufacturing, once the state’s largest jobs sector, has shed 83,700 jobs – down 33.8% – since reaching a record of 247,600 in February 1995. The sector reached a low of 152,000 jobs in July 2013.

Professional and Business Services employed 150,400 in December, up from 147,600 in November and up from 145,700 December 2018. December set a record for sector employment.

The state’s Leisure and Hospitality (tourism) sector had 123,300 jobs in December, up from 123,200 in November and above the 120,500 in December 2018. The sector reached a record for employment in September with 123,400 jobs.

The Financial Activities sector had 61,300 jobs in December, down from 61,400 in November and above the 60,900 in December 2018. The sector hit record employment of 63,300 in August.

Arkansas’ construction sector had 52,800 jobs in December, down from 53,400 in November and up from 50,600 in December 2018. The sector reached record employment of 57,700 in February 2006.

South Carolina, Utah, and Vermont had the lowest unemployment rates in December, 2.3% each. The rates in Colorado (2.5%), Florida (3%), Georgia (3.2%), Illinois (3.7%), Oregon (3.7%), South Carolina (2.3%), Utah (2.3%), and Washington (4.3%) set new series lows. Alaska had the highest jobless rate at 6.1%. The BLS report also shows that 15 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 3.5%, 12 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 23 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.