Arkansas’ unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percentage points to 3.5% in September. The Bureau of Labor Statistics had previously reported that the U.S. unemployment rate declined .2 percentage points to 3.5% for the month. Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, Arkansas’ unemployment rate has been running lower than the national average. The two rates have now converged.
Underlying the uptick in the unemployment rate was both an increase in the number of unemployed and a decrease in the number of employed. The number of unemployed has been edging higher for 6 months, having reached a trough of March of this year. Over that six-month period, the number of unemployed has risen by nearly 6,000. The number of employed Arkansans declined for the second consecutive month, falling by 2,445 in September after a decline of 2,775 in the previous month.
The declines in employment have driven a downturn in the size of the total labor force as well, down 2,400 over the past two months. Two months of household employment declines indicate that labor markets might possibly be losing some momentum. However, two months of data aren’t enough to establish a trend, but are merely suggestive of weakening conditions. Overall, with the unemployment rate below 4%, labor market conditions remain strong.
Nonfarm payroll employment declined by 3,400 jobs in September (seasonally adjusted). Before seasonal adjustment, the data showed a sharp increase in employment; however that was more than accounted for by the seasonal return of faculty and staff to public schools and universities. In the seasonally adjusted data, the downturn was most prominent in Education and Health Services, which was down by 3,300 jobs. Other sectors with employment declines included Retail Trade, Transportation & Utilities, Financial Services and Other Services. Sectors with increasing employment included Construction, Government, Information Services and Professional & Business Services. Within Professional and Business Services, the increase was entirely in the Administrative & Support Services category, which includes temporary workers.
Over the past twelve months, Arkansas payroll employment has increased by 35,900 jobs, or 2.8%. Over the same period, total U.S. payrolls have expanded by 5.69 million, or 3.9%. Compared to the pandemic/recession trough of February 2020, Arkansas employment has expanded by 2.1%, compared to 0.3% nationwide.
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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.