Arkansas jobless rate hits record low; labor force numbers remain low

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 650 views 

All large Arkansas employment sectors posted job gains in February, with the state’s jobless rate setting a new record low of 3.1%, down from 4.8% in February 2021. However, Arkansas’ labor force remains well below pre-pandemic levels.

The number of employed in Arkansas during February was an estimated 1,297,227, up 28,287 jobs compared with February 2021, and above the 1,268,940 in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report posted Friday (March 25). The February numbers are preliminary and subject to revision. The initial jobless rate for December 2021 was also a record of 3.1%, but was later revised to 3.3%.

Arkansas’ labor force, the number of people eligible to work, in February was 1,339,378 in February, up 7,065 compared with February 2021, and above the 1,334,809 in January. However, the labor force has 46,603 fewer participants than the pre-pandemic March 2020. The state’s labor force participation rate was 56.5% in February, below the 56.7% in February 2021, and also below the pre-pandemic 59.3% in March 2020.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the February report shows that more Arkansans are returning to the workforce.

“The best news is that we have over 5,000 more Arkansans employed with over 4,500 net increase in the labor force,” the governor said of the February comparisons with January numbers. “This means that we are seeing more return to the workforce, and that is critical to meet the needs of our growing economy. We have seen growth in employment in almost all sectors, and with a record low 3.1% unemployment rate, we continue to be lower than the national unemployment rate.”

Arkansans without jobs in February totaled 42,151, down from 42,610 in January, and well below the 63,373 in February 2021. The biggest year-over-year sector gains were in Trade, Transportation & Utilities (14,500 more jobs), and Leisure & Hospitality (up 10,900 jobs).

Unemployment rates were lower in February in 31 states and stable in 19 states, according to the BLS report. All 50 states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier. The U.S. rate was 3.8%.

Nebraska and Utah had the lowest jobless rates in February at 2.1% each. The next lowest rates were in Indiana at 2.3%, and Kansas at 2.5%. The rates in these four states set new series lows, as did the rates in the following five states (all state series begin in 1976): Arkansas (3.1%), Mississippi (4.5%), Montana (2.6%), Oklahoma (2.6%), and West Virginia (3.9%).

Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 27 states and was essentially unchanged in 23 states in February 2022. The largest job gains were in California (+138,100), Texas (+77,800), and Florida (+51,000).

Trade, Transportation, and Utilities
February 2022: 266,500
January 2022: 265,200
February 2021: 252,000
The February 2022 level marked a new record for the sector.

February 2022: 208,800
January 2022: 208,900
February 2021: 206,300
Sector employment hit a peak of 224,100 in May 2010.

Education and Health Services
February 2022: 195,300
January 2022: 194,700
February 2021: 194,100
Sector employment set a record of 196,600 in March 2021.

February 2022: 161,800
January 2022: 161,000
February 2021: 155,400
Manufacturing, once the state’s largest jobs sector, posted record employment of 247,600 in July 1995.

Professional and Business Services
February 2022: 148,900
January 2022: 152,600
February 2021: 142,400
The January number marked a record for the sector.

Leisure and Hospitality
February 2022: 120,900
January 2022: 120,400
February 2021: 110,000
The sector first reached an employment record of 122,900 in February 2019.

Financial Activities
February 2022: 66,400
January 2022: 66,400
February 2021: 65,600
The sector first posted record employment of 66,400 in January.

February 2022: 55,700
January 2022: 55,600
February 2021: 53,600
The sector reached record employment of 57,700 in February 2006.