Today’s report on state level employment and unemployment was another in a recent series of upbeat reports. The headline was another downtick in the unemployment rate, from 5.6% to 5.5%. Over the past 12 months, the unemployment rate in Arkansas has fallen by one full percentage point. The national unemployment rate in February was also 5.5%.
The underlying components of the unemployment rate–derived from the household survey–continue to trend in positive directions. The number of unemployed Arkansans was estimated to have declined by 858 from January to February, and has fallen by more than 10,000 over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, the number of employed increased by 5,750 for the month and is up by nearly 43,000 since February of 2014. The strong gains in employment have also driven labor force participation higher. The labor force was up by 4,900 for the month.
Total nonfarm payroll employment was up by 5,200 for the month (seasonally adjusted). The gains were largely attributable to increases in two service sector categories: Professional & Business Services (+2,100) and Leisure & Hospitality Services (+3,100). Changes in other sectors were mixed. Manufacturing employment showed a disappointing loss of jobs (-1,800), but construction employment was up for the fourth consecutive month. From February 2014 to February 2015, total payroll employment has increased by 29,400 — a growth rate of 2.5%.
Since the employment trough of February 2010, total payroll employment has increased by 61,100 and is now above the pre-recession employment level by 3,700 jobs (0.3%). By comparison, total employment for the U.S. in February was 2.0% above pre-recession levels.
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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.