The latest reports on conditions in Arkansas labor markets confirm the trend of slow but steady improvement. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, the unemployment rate in March was revised downward by 0.1% to 7.7%, and remained at that level in April. The underlying data from the household survey showed a decline in the labor force and the number of employed persons in April, representing breaks in what had been generally upward trends in those series. More important, however, the data also showed a decline in the number of unemployed — down 341 from the previous month. So far in 2011, the number of unemployed in Arkansas has fallen by over 1,400.
The survey of employers showed an accelerating pace of employment growth. The total for March was revised upward by 2,000 jobs and payrolls expanded by an additional 4,800 in April (seasonally adjusted). Over the first four months of the year, employers have added over 12,000 jobs to their payrolls. And since the trough of February 2010, employment has increased by 31,400. This 16-month expansion represents a milestone of sorts: Over half of the total jobs lost between the start of the recession and February 2010 have now been recovered. By comparison, employment nationwide has risen by 1.8 million, only about 20% of the total number of jobs lost from the start of the recession.
Employment in construction continues to languish, declining by another 900 jobs in April (seasonally adjusted). Over the past 12 months, construction employment is down by 2,600. Manufacturing employment increased by 1,200 in April, but is still below the level of a year ago. Service-providing jobs rose in every major sector in April, with the exception of “Other Services.” Gains were particularly strong in Leisure and Hospitality; Professional and Business Services; and Trade, Transportation and Utilities.
# # #*Seasonally adjusted data for nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly press release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, are available here: Table – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE