The latest data on Arkansas employment and unemployment came out this morning. Today’s release includes new data for January 2011, along with updated and revised data for previous years.
The houshold survey showed a decline in the unemployment rate from 7.9% in December to 7.8% in January. More important, the components of the overall rate support an optimistic view: the total number of employed increased by nearly 1,700 and the number of unemployed declined by nearly 300. The resulting increase in the size of the labor force contributes to an ongoing trend: since July of last year, the Arkansas labor force has increased by more than 12,000, with the unemployment rate remaining fairly stable.
The unemployment figures released this morning incorporate recent revisions to the statistical methodology used to construct the monthly estimates. As shown in the figure below, these revisions had the effect of increasing the unemployment rate throughout much of 2009 and 2010. That is, the unemployment rate over the past two years has been running somewhat higher than the data were leading us to believe at the time. Most notably, the new data show that unemployment hit 8% for a brief period in early 2010. Since then, the rate has remained in the 7.8% to 8.0% range.
The payroll survey showed employment gains in most service-providing sectors, but indicated weakness in goods-producing sectors. Overall, nonfarm payroll employment was up by 1,200 in January (seasonally adjusted). Compared to January 2010, payrolls were up by approximately 17,000. The monthly figures showed small declines in both construction (-500) and manufacturing (-700). Service providing sectors, on the other hand, added 2,200 jobs. The only non-government service sector to show a monthly decline was Leisure and Hospitality (-1,900). However, the Leisure and Hospitality sector had been showing strength in the latter part of 2010, with employment up by 4,000 over the past year.
The payroll employment data were also subject to annual revisions. Last year, the revised data revealed a sharply larger rate of job-losses in 2009 than previously-published data had been suggesting. This year, totals for 2009 and 2010 were not revised substantially, but there were some changes to specific sectors that are notable. The previously-published data had shown sizable increases in construction and manufacturing employment in 2010. The revised data show a decline in construction jobs in 2010 and only a small increase in manufacturing employment. On the other side of the ledger, Trade, Transportation, & Utilities had been showing a net decline for 2010, but the revised data show a fairly strong gain for the year. The revised data also show larger gains for Professional & Business Services and Leisure & Hospitality Services. Employment growth in Education & Health Services has evidently been weaker than the original data were suggesting; however, that sector has continued to show positive growth throughout the recession and recovery.
*A note on seaonally adjusted data: With holiday shopping and travel subsiding and winter weather moving in, it is typical to see large employment declines in the payroll data for January. Therefore, it is not surprising that not-seasonally adjusted data for January 2011 show a decline of 19,900 jobs (as reported in the monthly press release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services) . The data presented here at the Arkansas Economist are adjusted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to account for typical, recurring seasonal patterns. Seasonally adjusted data for nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the DWS press release, are available here: Table – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE