In the final state-level employment report for 2019, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed solid job growth in Arkansas. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6%, with both the household and payroll employment data indicating strong year-end increases. The unemployment rate in Arkansas has remained below 4% for 3-1/2 years now and shows no indication of moving outside the range of 3 to 4%.
Household employment was up 2,483 in December and has increased by 4,714 over the past three months. The number of unemployed increased slightly (+214) in December, adding to small increases from the previous three months. Labor force growth has been strong, with nearly 2,700 added to the labor force in December and nearly 6,400 added over the final three months of the year.
Nonfarm payroll employment surged 5,400 in December, translating to an annualized growth rate of over 5%. In fact, the news release from the BLS cited Arkansas as one of only three states seeing statistically significant job gains in December.
Payroll data for November were revised downward by 800, but the year-end employment total was up 18,300 jobs from December of 2018. In percentage terms that year-over-year change represents a growth rate of 1.4%, roughly matching the U.S. growth rate over the same period.
The monthly change in employment was driven primarily by service-sector growth, with Professional & Business Services up 2,800 and Education & Health Services up 2,000. Goods producing sectors showed zero growth, with gains in manufacturing matched by a decline in construction employment.
Year-over-year growth job growth was been positive for most sectors. Information Services and Mining & Logging contracted slightly over the course of 2019 and overall government employment was unchanged. Otherwise, job gains emerged in both goods-producing and service-providing sectors. Manufacturing employment was up for the fourth consecutive year. Service sector job growth showed some signs of a slowdown over the summer months but regained momentum toward the end of the year.
Since the current employment-growth trend started (from about December 2013), Arkansas payrolls have expanded by 111,600 jobs, an average annual growth rate of 1.5%.
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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 Department of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.