The March figures for Arkansas employment and unemployment came out on Friday. The news was mixed: The household survey showed higher unemployment while the payroll survey indicated strong employment growth, particularly in the goods-producing sectors.
The unemployment rate ticked up again, from 7.7 percent in February to 7.8 percent in March. The household survey indicated an increase in the number of unemployed persons by nearly 900, and a decline in the number of employed by approximately 7,800. Hence the unemployment rate reflected both an increase in unemployment and a decline in the labor force.
In contrast, the payroll survey showed a sharp increase in employment, up by nearly ten-thousand jobs (seasonally adjusted).
Goods-producing sectors showed notable gains: Construction employment was up 3,100 and manufacturing employment rose by 1,600. Month-over-month increases were also reported in information services, professional and business services, other services, and government.
In addition to the strong payroll growth in March, the figures for February were revised upward by 1,000 jobs — it turns out that February was slightly less “dismal” than previously reported. Over the past six months (from September 2009 to March 2010) employment has increased in construction, manufacturing, and several service-providing sectors.
It is not unusual for the household data and the payroll data to give conflicting signals, particularly on a month-to-month basis. In addition to having different sources, the two surveys differ in the way that they measure agricultural employment, self-employment, and multiple job-holders (among other things).
The payroll figures show signs of recovery in employment growth for some sectors. Nevertheless, the increases are not (yet) sufficient to reduce a stubbornly-high unemployment rate.