The Arkansas unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percent in August to 6.3%. This was the first increase in the state’s unemployment rate since July of 2013, when the rate increased from 7.6% to 7.7%. The higher unemployment rate was driven by an increase in the number of Arkansans unemployed and a decline in the number employed. The shrinkage of the labor force continued, but it was the smallest decline since a sharp downturn began in April. Compared to a year ago, the number of unemployed is down by over 20,000 and the unemployment rate is down by 1.4%. However much of that decline is associated with the contracting labor force, which has fallen by 34,400 since March of this year.
Nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged in August (+100 jobs, seasonally adjusted). Compared to August of 2013, payrolls have increased by 17,600; however, that increase took place almost entirely in the second half of 2013. Since January of this year, payroll employment has changed little on net (+400).
Changes in the components of payroll employment were mixed. Jobs in wholesale trade increased by 1,400 and jobs in Government were down 1,100 — primarily local government employment, which declined by 1,000. Before seasonal adjustment, local government employment increased by 1,400 due primarily to the start of the school year. The fact that seasonally-adjusted employment declined shows that the increase in school-related employment was smaller than would typically be expected.
Most sectors were up from a year earlier. Year-over-year increases in Construction and Manufacturing are particularly encouraging, given the ongoing weakness in those two sectors. Strong employment gains in Education & Health Services, and in Leisure & Hospitality services are also prominent in the breakdown of job growth. Three sectors have shown small year-over-year declines: Information Services, Financial Services, and Government.
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*Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.