April was another record-setting month for Arkansas labor markets. The unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points to 2.8%—the lowest unemployment rate on record. Arkansas was one of ten states seeing new record-low unemployment rates. The national unemployment rate was previously reported to have fallen 0.1 percentage points to 3.4% in April.
Underlying the drop in the unemployment rate was a sharp increase in the number of employed (+4,831) and a decline in the number of unemployed (-1,886). On net, the labor force expanded by 2,945. These changes represent a continuation of trends we’ve seen emerging since mid-2022, with something of an acceleration over the first months of 2023. In the most recent six months alone, household employment has increase by nearly 16,000, while the number of unemployed workers has declined by 9,000.
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 3,700 in April (seasonally adjusted data). Compared to a year earlier, employment has increased by 33,600, or about 2.5%. Prominent in the March-to-April expansion were increases in Construction Employment (+1,100) and Leisure & Hospitality Services (+2,900). Sectors declining in April included Manufacturing, Retail Trade, and Professional & Business Services. In the later, the declines were mostly in the Administrative & Support Services component.
Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen growth in nearly every sector. One prominent exception is Retail Trade, which peaked early in 2022 but has roughly plateaued in recent months. Other sectors continue to expand robustly, including Leisure & Hospitality, Education & Health, Wholesale Trade, and Construction.
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Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.