The last state employment report for 2017 came out today with somewhat disappointing numbers. Although the unemployment rate remained unchanged in December at the low level of 3.7%, the number of unemployed crept upward for a sixth consecutive month and the number of employed Arkansans declined for a third consecutive month. From September through December, the household employment survey showed an increase in the number of unemployed of 1,561 and an employment decline of 19,000.
Nonfarm payroll employment declined by 6,500 jobs in December (seasonally adjusted). The decline was broad-based, affecting both goods-producing and service-providing sectors. Professional and Business services, a sector that has been leading the way in job growth in recent years, declined by 1,700 jobs in December. Leisure and Hospitality services were down by 800 jobs. Educational and Health Services continued to expand (+500 total), with Health Care jobs increasing by 400.
Compared to the end of 2016, payroll employment increased 11,300 (seasonally adjusted) in 2017. Over the course of the year, the sector adding the most jobs to the economy was education and health services, up 5,300 jobs. Manufacturing staged an impressive comeback in 2017, adding 4,700 jobs over the course of the year.
As shown in the figure below, the household and payroll surveys both show a distinct slowdown in job growth during in the latter part of 2017. As mentioned, household employment was down 19,000 over the last three months of the year. From June through December, household employment was down by 7,100 while nonfarm payroll employment declined by 5,100 jobs.
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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.