Data for November indicate further weakening of Arkansas labor markets. The unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 3.3%, and both the household and payroll surveys showed employment declines.
The increase in the unemployment rate was the fourth consecutive monthly increase after hitting a low of 2.6% in June and July. Nevertheless, the state’s unemployment rate remains lower than a year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate declined from 3.9% to 3.7% in November, further closing the gap between the national and state unemployment rates. (The difference is no longer considered statistically significant.)
The pattern of the unemployment rate over the course of 2023 is attributable to large swings in the number of unemployed. From January through July, the number of unemployed declined by approximately 11,000 to an all-time low of 35,624. From July through November that number has risen by 9,655 to 45,279, but it remains lower than at the start of the year. The household survey also showed a decline in the number of employed in November (following a decline in October) and the net change in the labor force turned negative as well. Nevertheless, both employment and the labor force remain well-above levels of a year ago or at the start of 2023.
Nonfarm payroll employment declined by 1,600 in November, following a revised 4,500 decline in October (seasonally adjusted data). After reaching a peak in August, nonfarm payrolls have declined by 9,800. Compared to a year ago, however, payroll employment is up by 12,800 (approximately 1%).
The employment declines in November included nearly all goods-producing sectors, along with Wholesale and Retail Trade and Professional & Business Services. Government employment also declined (primarily local government). Several service-providing sectors registered employment gains, including Leisure & Hospitality Services and Education & Health Services. Those two super-sectors, along with Construction, comprise the areas where employment growth has been strongest over the past twelve months. At the other end of the scale, Manufacturing, Retail Trade, Transportation & Utilities, Information Services, and Professional & Business services have all declined compared to their levels in November 2022.
The 12,800 increase in Arkansas payroll employment over the past twelve months corresponds to a growth rate of 1.0%. Over the same period, U.S. employment increased by 1.8%. Compared to employment levels of February 2020, employment in Arkansas is up by 4.9%, while U.S. employment has increased by 3.1%.
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Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.