Arkansas jobless rate remains at 4.4%; tourism sector continues to recover

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 221 views 

Arkansas’ tourism industry recorded a year-over-year gain of 20,200 jobs in the May jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The food services segment within the sector posted an annual job gain of almost 19%, and the hotel segment had job growth of 22.5%.

The BLS report posted Wednesday (June 23) showed that Arkansas’ jobless rate in May was 4.4%, unchanged from April, and well below the 8.5% in May 2020. May marked the third consecutive month the jobless rate held at 4.4%.

The number of employed in Arkansas during May was an estimated 1,298,687, up 61,414 jobs compared with May 2020, but below the 1,302,658 in April. The May numbers are preliminary and subject to revision. The report marked 14 months of COVID-19 impacts on the economy.

The state’s labor force – the number of people eligible to work – was 1,357,765 in May, up compared with the 1,352,008 in May 2020, and below the 1,362,498 in April. Arkansans without jobs in May totaled 59,078, down from 59,840 in April but well below the 114,735 in May 2020 when much of the state economy was still inactive.

The biggest sector gains were in Leisure & Hospitality (20,200 more jobs), Trade, Transportation & Utilities (up 11,100 jobs) and Manufacturing (up 10,300 jobs). According to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, there were 90,900 jobs in food services in May, up 18.7% compared with the 76,600 jobs in May 2020. The hotel segment employed 9,800 in May, up 22.5% compared with the 8,000 in May 2020. However, the 110,300 tourism jobs in May is still well below the sector employment record of 122,900 in December 2019.

Unemployment rates were lower in May in 21 states and the District of Columbia, higher in 1 state, and stable in 28 states, according to the BLS report. All 50 states and the District had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier. Hawaii had the highest unemployment rate in May, 8.1%. The next highest rates were in New Mexico at 8%, and California at 7.9%. New Hampshire had the lowest jobless rate at 2.5%, followed by Nebraska and Vermont at 2.6% each. In total, 27 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 5.8%, 12 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 11 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation, and Utilities sector – the state’s largest job category – was 250,500 in May, up from 250,400 in April and above from the 239,400 in May 2020. The sector reached record employment of 253,700 in January 2020.

The Government sector employed 205,800 in May, up from the 205,100 in April and above the 202,700 in May 2020. Sector employment hit a peak of 224,100 in May 2010.

The Education and Health Services sector employed 189,300 in May, up from 188,400 in April and above the 181,400 in May 2020. February 2020 set a record for sector employment at 195,300.

Arkansas’ manufacturing sector had 162,000 jobs, up from 159,500 in April and up from the 151,700 jobs in May 2020. Manufacturing, once the state’s largest jobs sector, posted record employment of 247,600 in July 1995.

Professional and Business Services employed 144,200 in May, up from 143,900 in April and well above the 131,500 May 2020. The sector reached record employment of 147,100 in January 2020.

The state’s Leisure and Hospitality (tourism) sector had 110,300 jobs in May, up from 110,500 in April and above the 90,100 in May 2020. The sector first reached an employment record of 122,900 in December 2019.

The Financial Activities sector had 64,500 jobs in May, up from 64,300 in April and up from the 63,400 in May 2020. The May jobs number marks a new record employment for the sector.

The Construction sector had 53,900 jobs in May, down from 54,400 in April and up from the 52,600 in May 2020. The sector reached record employment of 54,700 in November 2020.

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