State-level data on employment and unemployment in February were mixed for Arkansas. Information from the household survey showed a sharp drop in the number of employed, and hence a drop in the unemployment rate from 3.4% to 3.2% (in contrast to the 0.2 percentage point increase previously reported for the U.S.). On the other hand, seasonally adjusted payroll data showed a slight decline for the month. Nevertheless, following the data revisions reported earlier this month, Arkansas’ labor markets appear to remain relatively robust.
The decline in the unemployment rate was driven by a sharp drop in the number of unemployed, down 2,964 for the month and down over 4,000 since October. The number of employed was up by 3,051 for a fifth consecutive month of growth. As a result, the labor force was higher in February as well.
Nonfarm payroll employment edged slightly lower for the month (seasonally adjusted), falling by 1,700. Declining sectors included Durable Goods Manufacturing, Transportation & Utilities, and several other service-providing sectors. Sectors adding jobs included Nondurables Manufacturing, Wholesale, and Retail Trade.
Following the upward revisions to recent payroll growth, the slight decline in February does not represent much of a set-back. Employment growth over the past twelve months has totaled 32,500 jobs, nearly 2.5% growth. Since the previous employment peak of February 2020 Arkansas has added 62,100 jobs, a cumulative increase of 4.7%. By comparison, U.S. employment in February 2023 was up only 2.0% since February 2020.
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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 Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.