The Arkansas unemployment rate set another new record low in March: 3.6%. Having declined by 0.1 percentage point in each of the past four months, the state’s unemployment rate is now 0.9% lower than the national average.
March’s decline in the unemployment rate was underpinned by an increase in the number of employed (+4,428) and a decline in the number unemployed (-1,240). As a result, the participation rate was up for the second consecutive month, after declining steadily during 2016 and into the first part of this year.
Nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged in March (seasonally adjusted). Professional and Business Services continued to show strong growth, increasing by 1,200 jobs from February to March. Education and Health Services showed an uncharacteristic decline for the month, but remains the single largest generator of job growth among the major super-sectors over the past 12 months. Construction employment would ordinarily be expected to increase this time of year, but the warm early spring months was associated with earlier-than-expected increases. As a result, with not-seasonally adjusted employment unchanged in the construction sector in March, the seasonally-adjusted figures register a decline of 800 jobs. Manufacturing continues to show signs of improvement, having added a cumulative total of 3,100 jobs over the past year.
Compared to its pre-recession level (December 2007), Arkansas employment has increased by 33,100 jobs — about 2.8% growth. Over the same period, employment nationally has increased by 5.3%. That long-run comparison includes a period of relatively stagnant job growth in Arkansas — from around 2011 through 2013. More recently, Arkansas employment has tracked the national growth rate more closely: Since the end of 2013, Arkansas employment has expanded by 5.7%, compared to 6.2% nationwide.
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*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, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.