Gov. Hutchinson: Arkansas economy in a position ‘to rebound quickly’

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,293 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks Monday (May 11) from El Dorado.

Just five days after El Dorado-based Murphy Oil announced plans to move its 80 corporate employees to Houston, Gov. Asa Hutchinson delivered his daily COVID-19 briefing in the southwest Arkansas city, saying the state’s economy benefits from a “broad diversity” that will help it recover faster than most states.

On May 6 the energy and exploration company said it would move its corporate headquarters to Houston. The company is also relocating 110 employees from its Canadian office in Calgary to Houston. At the time, Gov. Hutchinson said he regretted the news, but noted that Murphy USA, a fuel and convenience store operator, remains based in El Dorado and has 600 employees.

Gov. Hutchinson said during Monday’s (May 11) press conference that Arkansas is “in one of the best positions among the states” from an economic standpoint. He said the state’s diverse economy, stable budget and the fact that a complete shutdown order was never issued puts it in a position to more quickly rebound.

“And yes, we took a hit, but it wasn’t a nose dive as we’ve seen in some other places. And I think the reason that we’re in a good position to rebound quickly in Arkansas is because we didn’t shut down our complete economy, but that we managed it, and we minimized some of the hurt that was out there, even though our economy took a hit as well,” he said.

The number of unemployed in Arkansas’ March jobs report – the most recent available – rose 37.4% year-over-year, and was up 38.7% compared to February. Arkansans without jobs in March totaled 66,328, higher than the 48,269 in March 2019 and the 47,802 unemployed in February.

The state’s jobless rate was 4.8% in March, well above the 3.5% in February and March 2019. The number of employed in Arkansas during March was an estimated 1,320,420, up 6,747 jobs compared with March 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The April report is to be released May 22.

Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said Monday the state received more than 12,300 applications for the $147.7 million in the Arkansas Ready for Business grant program. He said 94% of the applicants were from employers with fewer than 50 employees, and 46% were from minority- and women-owned businesses. Gov. Hutchinson on March 29 unveiled the grant program, to be administered by the Arkansas Department of Commerce, for the purpose of helping a wide variety of businesses that may be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks and months.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 4,043 on Monday, up from 3,984 on Saturday. The number of deaths over the weekend rose from 90 to 94. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 61 on Monday, down from 64 on Saturday. Of the COVID-19 patients, 11 were on ventilators, down from 13 on Saturday.

As of Monday at 1 p.m., there were 1,337,541 U.S. cases and 79,699 deaths. Globally, there were 4,148,034 cases and 284,124 deaths.