The February labor market reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed another month of positive employment growth for the state. The headline statistic was a decline in the unemployment rate from 7.3% to 7.1%. The national unemployment rate ticked upward by 0.1% in February, so the drop in Arkansas’ rate brought the gap between the state and national unemployment rates down to 0.4%. The Arkansas unemployment rate has now fallen 0.6% in the past 6 months, and it is 0.4% lower than a year ago.
The underlying data from the household survey showed a continuation–and acceleration–of recent positive trends. The number of unemployed declined by nearly 2,900, bringing the cumulative 6-month decline to more than 7,900. The number of employed rose by more than 5,300, raising the 6-month increase to over 13,700.
The report on nonfarm payroll employment was similarly upbeat. The number of jobs increased by 800 in February (seasonally adjusted), following an upward revision to the data from January. After two years of stagnant job reports, payroll employment has increased by 18,000 over the past 6 months.
The table below breaks down the recent employment gains by sector. The data show another strong month for goods-producing sectors, with Construction up by 800 and Manufacturing up by 700. In the past 6 months we’ve seen a total increase of 6,600 in these two sectors alone. Employment changes in service-providing sectors were mixed in February, with increases in Retail Trade and Education & Health Services offset by losses on Professional & Business Services, Financial Services, and Other Services. Since the employment trough of February 2010 Arkansas has seen a cumulative increase of 40,200 jobs, but we remain 16,800 jobs below the employment levels that prevailed before the recession of 2008-09.
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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.