The latest report on state-level employment and unemployment suggests ongoing weakness in Arkansas labor markets. The unemployment rate edged up to 7.4% (although the increase from June’s 7.3% rate was literally a matter of rounding error). At 7.4%, the Arkansas unemployment rate is unchanged from a year ago and is now at the same level as the U.S. This is the first time since the early months of the recession that the Arkansas unemployment rate has not been lower than the national average.
July’s uptick in the unemployment rate was primarily due to a decline in the number of employed persons (-4,764). The number of unemployed was basically unchanged (+37). Due to the fall in employment, the overall size of Arkansas’ labor force declined — resuming the trend that we’ve seen over the past year-and-a-half. Since January 2012, the Arkansas labor force is down by nearly 40,000 — approximately 2.9%.
Total nonfarm payroll employment was up by 1,900 in July (seasonally adjusted) — a fairly modest increase but a welcome change from the declines of the two previous months (revised). Goods-producing sectors showed a collective decline of 1,600 jobs while service-providing sectors expanded by 3,500 — mostly in the areas of Health Services and Professional & Business Services. Compared to a year ago, Arkansas employment is up by 13,600, mostly from increases in Health Services, Retail Trade, and Transportation & Utilities.
As with the household survey, the data from the payroll survey indicate that the pace of Arkansas’ recovery from the 2008-09 recession is lagging behind the U.S. average. Although the recession did not hit Arkansas as hard as the rest of the country, employment at the national level has shown steady improvement while Arkansas’ employment growth has been irregular and slower, on net. As of July 2013, cumulative changes in employment since the beginning of 2008 measure -1.5% for the U.S. and -1.8% for Arkansas.
# # #*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, are available here: Table – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.