The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services show continuing stagnation in Arkansas labor markets. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.3%, where it has held for most of the past 18 months.
With the number of employed down by 1,732 in June and the number of unemployed up by 628, the state’s labor force declined by 1,104. Hence, the tentative signs of improvement in the Arkansas’ labor force participation rate that we had seen over the past two months did not persist. Over the past 12 months, the household survey is showing a decline in employment of nearly 21,000. The number of unemployed is down by 1,685 but most of that decline took place in the second half of 2012. Over the first 6 months of 2013, the number of unemployed has shown a net increase of 1,935.
The payroll survey showed no change in employment for the month (seasonally adjusted). Employment declines were recorded in Manufacturing, Financial Services, Professional & Business Services, and Education & Health Services. Employment in the retail sector fell rather sharply (-1,700). Other service sectors registered employment increases, led by Other Services (+1,900) and Transportation & Utilities (+1,200). Construction employment was also up slightly. Compared to a year earlier, payroll employment was up by 8,500.
The latest data from the household and payroll surveys continue to give conflicting signals. Since mid-2012 the payroll survey has shown slow but positive employment growth while the household survey has shown employment declining sharply.
One indication of the eventual reconciliation of these trends is suggested by the most recent data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). The QCEW data are considered more accurate than the monthly payroll surveys, and are used to revise the payroll data during the annual benchmark revision process. In the most recent release, the QCEW showed an employment increase of only 1,900 jobs during 2012 (December 2011 through December 2012). In contrast, the current payroll data indicate job growth of 4,000 for the same period. This suggests that when the payroll data are eventually revised, they will show slower job growth than current payroll statistics are suggesting — at least for the second half of 2012.
# # #*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.