Arkansas job numbers show recovery signs in May, jobless rate falls to 9.5%

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 386 views 

The May jobless rate in Arkansas was 9.5%, down from 10.8% in April, but much higher than the 3.5% in May 2019. The May report marks the second full month of COVID-19 impact on the state economy, and the first month of partial reopening in some sectors.

The number of employed in Arkansas during May was an estimated 1,215,161, down 97,126 jobs compared with May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report posted Friday (June 19). The state’s labor force – the number of people eligible to work – was 1,343,396 in May down 1.3% compared with the 1,360,506 in May 2019.

University of Arkansas Little Rock economist Michael Pakko said in a June 10 report the state economy was showing “relative resilience” in the face of the national economic downturn. He projected the state’s jobless rate would decline.

“Over the past month, however, there have been emerging bits of information that suggest that Arkansas has not been as hard-hit as many other parts of the country. While initial claims for unemployment insurance remain high, continuing claims (insured unemployment) seemed to have clearly plateaued at around 120,000, implying an insured unemployment rate of about 10%,” Pakko wrote.

Arkansans without jobs in May totaled 128,235, up 166% from the 48,219 in May 2019 and above the 140,898 unemployed in April. Sectors with the biggest year-over-year losses were Leisure & Hospitality (30,500 lost jobs), Manufacturing (down 18,700), and government (down 12,000). The May numbers are preliminary and subject to revision.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia had jobless rate increases from a year earlier. Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in May at 25.3%, followed by Hawaii at 22.6%, and Michigan at 21.2%. Nebraska had the lowest unemployment rate at 5.2%.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation, and Utilities sector – the state’s largest job category – was 245,200 in May, up from 242,200 in April and down from the 252,000 in May 2019. December employment of 254,700 set a new record for the sector.

The Government sector employed 199,400 in May, below the 203,800 in April and below the 211,400 in May 2019. Sector employment hit a peak of 224,100 in May 2010.

The Education and Health Services sector employed 184,100 in May, up from 175,000 in April and below the 192,700 in May 2019. February set a record for sector employment at 197,600.

Arkansas’ manufacturing sector had 143,800 jobs, down from 144,200 in April and down from the 162,500 jobs in May 2019. Manufacturing, once the state’s largest jobs sector, has shed 97,000 jobs – down 39.2% – since reaching a record of 247,600 in April 1995. The April number marked a new jobs low for the sector. The previous low was 152,000 jobs in July 2013.

Professional and Business Services employed 139,000 in May, up from 137,300 in April and down from 144,900 May 2019. The sector had record employment of 148,000 in December 2019.

The state’s Leisure and Hospitality (tourism) sector had 89,200 jobs in May, up from 77,400 in April and 25.5% below the 119,800 in May 2019. The sector reached a record for employment in July 2019 with 120,800 jobs.

The Financial Activities sector had 61,200 jobs in May, unchanged from April and down from the 62,700 in May 2019. The sector hit record employment of 62,900 in August.