First quarter weekly wage and job growth in Arkansas below U.S. numbers

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 395 views 

Average weekly wage growth was up 3% in Arkansas during the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period of 2019, down from the national average of 3.3%. Among the 357 largest U.S. counties, 335 had over-the-year increases in average weekly wages.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report published Wednesday (Aug. 19) had average weekly wages nationwide at $1,222, well above the Arkansas average of $922.

Wednesday’s report included average weekly wage numbers in counties with average annual employment of 75,000 or more. Of Arkansas’ 75 counties, only three meet the employment threshold: Benton, Pulaski and Washington counties. Following are the average weekly wage numbers for the three counties, the percentage increase, and rank among the 357 largest counties in terms of wage growth.
• Benton: $1,509, 1.6%, 285
• Pulaski: $1,030, 3.6%, 128
• Washington: $898, 3.3%, 158

McLean County, Ill., had the largest over-the-year percentage increase in average weekly wages at 13.3%. Average weekly wages grew 21.9% (up $491) thanks to gains in the financial services sector in the area. Peoria County, Ill., had the largest over-the-year percentage decrease in average weekly wages with a loss of 12.8%. Manufacturing had the largest impact, with an average weekly wage decrease of 29.2% over the year.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock economist Michael Pakko noted that most of the first quarter was without impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the second quarter could show higher growth rates because those in low income jobs are likely to have been laid off.

“The first quarter was largely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Data for the second quarter is likely to show a somewhat higher growth rate, due to the effects of the pandemic-related shutdowns. In particular, workers on temporary layoffs tend to be in the lower-wage occupations, so that the remaining employed workers have a higher average,” Pakko explained. “During these tumultuous time in the labor markets, short-term changes aren’t necessarily indicative of trend growth, but are susceptible to movements associated with changes in the composition of the employed labor force.”

The BLS report also estimated 93,600 active business establishments in Arkansas during the first quarter of 2020. Pulaski County had 14,700 establishments, Benton County had 7,000 and Washington County had 6,500. The three largest Arkansas counties accounted for 30.1% of all statewide business establishments.

The report also noted that U.S. employment by the end of the quarter was 147.088 million, up 0.4% compared with the same period in 2019. Arkansas job numbers ended the quarter at 1.22 million, up 0.2% compared with the same period in 2019, according to the BLS report.

Between March 2019 to March 2020, job numbers were higher in 202 of the 357 largest U.S. counties. St. Johns County, Fla., had the largest over-the-year percentage increase in employment at 3.7%. The job growth was driven primarily by the region’s tourism sector. Ector County, Texas, experienced the largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment, with a loss of 5.5% credited largely to a 15.2% loss of jobs in the natural resources and mining sector.