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Arkansas Jobless Rate Edges Up, Labor Pool Grows by 3,200 Positions


Arkansas was the among several states that saw higher unemployment rates in August, but U.S. Labor Department officials said Hurricane Harvey had “no discernible effect” on the nation’s employment picture last month.

According to labor force data produced by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point off the state’s all-time low to 3.5% in August. Arkansas’ civilian labor force added 3,272 people, a result of 2,038 additional employed and 1,234 more unemployed Arkansans. The state’s brimming labor pool now has a total of 1,377,710 workers, up 3,272 from July and a robust 35,209 from a year ago.

“Arkansas’ unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point in August, as the number of employed and unemployed both rose slightly,” said Susan Price, Arkansas’ BLS Program operations manager. “The movement in the jobless rate mirrored the trend seen at the national level.”

Arkansas’ unemployment held at 3.4% in July, dropping then a full percentage point below the declining U.S. jobless rate. Last week, the U.S. unemployment rate fell one tenth of a percentage point to 4.4%, the lowest level since former George W. Bush had spent only six months in office in 2001.

In Arkansas, nonfarm payroll jobs decreased 2,600 in August to total 1,241,200. Seven major industry sectors posted declines, while three sectors added jobs. Employment in trade, transportation and utilities saw the biggest drop at 3,000 as the state’s wholesale trade reported contractions in farm supplies merchant wholesalers.

Jobs in leisure and hospitality also declined by 1,100 ahead of Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of the nation’s vacation season. On the other side of the counter, job expansions exceeding 3,000 positions occurred in local and state government as public educational facilities begin the new school year.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector – Arkansas’ largest job sector – now totals 254,100, down from 257,100 in July but still 1,700 above last years’ 252,400 workers.

Jobs in the red-hot education and health services sector rose by 900 month-to-month to 186,900 in August. That total set another record for the sector, which has grown 5% in the past 12 months by adding 6,600 new positions.

Arkansas’ manufacturing sector lost ground in August, dropping 200 workers in to 158,400. That tally is still well head of year ago totals of 155,100 as the state’s nondurable goods sector that produce fast-moving consumer perishables such as cosmetics, cleaning products, food, condiments, fuel, beer, cigarettes, tobacco and medicine has added 4,500 jobs in the past year. The sector saw peak employment more than 20 years ago when employment topped out at 247,300 in February 1995.

As noted, Arkansas’ leisure and hospitality sector declined by 200 to 123,200 as the tourist destinations across the state are now preparing for a slow winter season. The state’s fast-growing tourism and food service industries still have added 4,600 jobs in the past year, up from 118,600 a year ago.

Hiring in the construction trade declined by 300 to 52,500 in August, well above year ago levels of 50,900. The state’s mining and logging, which includes jobs in the oil and gas industry, remained flat at 6,100 positions in August and slightly below year ago levels at 6,200.

Unemployment rates were higher in August in eight states, lower in one state, and stable in 41 states and the District of Columbia, BLS data shows. Twenty-one states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, one state had an increase, and 28 states and the District had little or no change.

Nationally, nonfarm payroll employment increased in six states in August, decreased in three states, and was essentially unchanged in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, 29 states and the District added nonfarm payroll jobs and 21 states were essentially unchanged.

North Dakota and Colorado had the lowest unemployment rates in August at 2.3% and 2.4 %, respectively. The rate in Tennessee at 3.3% set a new series low, while Alaska had the highest jobless rate in the U.S at 7.2%.

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