The Arkansas unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.9% in August. The number of unemployed was up slightly (+267) and the number of employed was down (-1,520); however, these changes were not enough to cause the unemployment rate to budge more than a tiny fraction of a percentage point. August was the third consecutive month in which employment and unemployment moved in the “wrong” direction. If these three month trends continue, the unemployment rate will tick up to 4.0% in September. Despite the recent slowdown in household employment, Arkansas has shown significant improvement over the past 12 months. The decline of 1.2% in the state’s unemployment rate since August 2015 is the largest decline in the country, matched only by Tennessee.
Arkansas nonfarm payrolls increased by 3,400 in August (seasonally adjusted). Employment in goods producing sectors was down, while most service-providing sectors expanded. Particularly strong gains for the month were seen in Wholesale and Retail Trade, as well as Leisure and Hospitality Services.
Over the past year, employment is up by 16,700 jobs. However, the pace of growth has slowed considerably since a year ago. From December 2014 through December 2015, Arkansas payroll employment expanded by 27,100 jobs — a growth rate of 2.3%. So far in 2016, cumulative employment growth has totaled only 2,400 jobs, representing an annualized growth rate of only 0.3%.
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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.