Arkansas jobless rate dips to 7.3% in September, but number of unemployed rises more than 100%

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 594 views 

The number of employed Arkansans fell 0.43% between August and September, but a decline in the size of the available workforce helped push the state’s jobless rate to 7.3% in September, just below the 7.4% in August, and well above the 3.6% in September 2019.

The number of employed in Arkansas during September was an estimated 1,238,278, down 76,529 jobs, or 5.8% lower, compared with September 2019, according to numbers posted Tuesday (Oct. 20) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The September numbers are preliminary and subject to revision. The report marked the sixth full month of COVID-19 impacts on the economy.

The September number was down 5,391 jobs compared with August. The state’s labor force – the number of people eligible to work – was 1,335,469 in September down 2% compared with the 1,363,257 in September 2019, and down from the 1,343,186 in August.

Arkansans without jobs in September totaled 97,191, up 100.6% from the 48,450 in September 2019 but down from the 99,517 unemployed in August. The state reached a peak of those without jobs of 140,898 in April. Sectors with the biggest year-over-year losses were Leisure & Hospitality (17,500 jobs lost) Manufacturing (down 15,800), and Government (down 7,900). The biggest job gainer was Trade, Transportation and Utilities with 7,400 more jobs year-over-year.

Greg Kaza, an economist and director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, said the September numbers show that job numbers have been on a recovery trend since April but the economy is still in a recovery.

“The job gains were more robust in 2019. The economy was in an expansion last year, whereas it’s currently in a recovery from a recession, a weaker state,” Kaza noted.

All 50 states had jobless rate increases from a year earlier, according to BLS. Hawaii had the highest unemployment rate in September at 15.1%, followed by Nevada at 12.6%. Nebraska had the lowest rate at 3.5%, followed by South Dakota at 4.1%, and Vermont at 4.2%.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation, and Utilities sector – the state’s largest job category – was 258,600 in September, up from 257,900 in August and up from the 251,200 in September 2019. December employment of 254,700 set a new record for the sector.

The Government sector employed 202,800 in September, below the 206,500 in August and below the 210,700 in September 2019. Sector employment hit a peak of 224,100 in May 2010.

The Education and Health Services sector employed 186,700 in September, up from 185,000 in August and below the 193,500 in September 2019. February set a record for sector employment at 197,600.

Arkansas’ manufacturing sector had 145,400 jobs, up from 144,000 in August and down from the 161,200 jobs in September 2019. Manufacturing, once the state’s largest jobs sector, has shed 102,200 jobs – down 41.2% – since reaching a record of 247,600 in July 1995.

Professional and Business Services employed 143,800 in September, down from 145,900 in August and down from 144,500 September 2019. The sector had record employment of 148,000 in December 2019.

The state’s Leisure and Hospitality (tourism) sector had 102,800 jobs in September, up from 102,100 in August and 17,500 jobs below the 120,300 in September 2019. The sector reached an employment record of 120,800 in July 2019.

The Financial Activities sector had 60,500 jobs in September, unchanged from August and down from the 62,900 in September 2019. The sector first hit record employment of 62,900 in August 2019.