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Arkansas jobless rate falls to 8% in June

A 2.5% decline in Arkansas’ eligible labor force and a more than 18% decline in the number of unemployed pushed the state’s jobless rate to 8% in June, down from 9.6% in May. However, the number of employed fell 0.76% between May and June.

The June jobless rate of 8% was well above the 3.6% in June 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report posted Friday (July 17). The report marked the third full month of COVID-19 impacts on the economy.

The number of employed in Arkansas during June was an estimated 1,206,952, down 105,052 jobs compared with June 2019. The state’s labor force – the number of people eligible to work – was 1,312,290 in June down 3.53% compared with the 1,360,371 in June 2019, and down 2.5% from the 1,345,509 in May.

University of Arkansas Little Rock economist Michael Pakko said payroll employment between February and June declined 5.7%, but that’s better than the nationwide decline of 9.6%. He also noted the decline of people in the state’s labor force.

“The household survey indicated a decline in the number of unemployed Arkansans of nearly 24,000 to 105,338. The number of employed declined as well (down 9,300), resulting in a sharp downturn in the measured labor force. The Arkansas labor force participation rate has dropped 2.4 percentage points from 58.2% in January and February to 55.8% in June. The U.S. labor force participation rate declined 1.9 percentage points (from 63.4% to 61.5%) over the same period,” Pakko noted in his analysis.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the report shows Arkansas’ economy continues to respond in the right direction.

“There are some areas of concern there that we’ve had some people leave the workforce. That is a concern. But the 8% unemployment rate is good news for Arkansas,” he said.

Arkansans without jobs in June totaled 105,338, up 117.8% from the 48,367 in June 2019 but below the 129,260 unemployed in May. Sectors with the biggest year-over-year losses were Leisure & Hospitality (19,700 lost jobs), Manufacturing (down 18,100), and Education & Health Services (down 10,700). The June numbers are preliminary and subject to revision.

All 50 states and the District had jobless rate increases from a year earlier. Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in June at 25.3%, followed by Hawaii at 22.6%, and Michigan at 21.2%. Nebraska had the lowest unemployment rate at 5.2%.

The BLS report noted that 49 states and the District of Columbia had jobless rate increases from a year earlier, while one state had no change. Massachusetts had the highest jobless rate in June at 17.4%, followed by New Jersey at 16.6%, and New York at 15.7%. The rates in these three states set new series highs. Kentucky had the lowest jobless rate at 4.3%.

JOB SECTOR NUMBERS Jobs in the Trade, Transportation, and Utilities sector – the state’s largest job category – was 253,200 in June, up from 246,300 in May and up from the 251,500 in June 2019. The sector was the only large jobs sector in the state to post a year-over-year jobs gain. December employment of 254,700 set a new record for the sector.

The Government sector employed 199,400 in June, below the 203,800 in May and below the 211,400 in June 2019. Sector employment hit a peak of 224,100 in June 2010.

The Education and Health Services sector employed 202,800 in June, up from 199,900 in May and below the 210,700 in June 2019. February set a record for sector employment at 197,600.

Arkansas’ manufacturing sector had 144,200 jobs, up from 143,600 in May and down from the 162,300 jobs in June 2019. Manufacturing, once the state’s largest jobs sector, has shed 103,400 jobs – down 41.7% – since reaching a record of 247,600 in May 1995. The May number marked a new jobs low for the sector. The previous low was 152,000 jobs in July 2013.

Professional and Business Services employed 141,800 in June, up from 138,600 in May and down from 145,000 June 2019. The sector had record employment of 148,000 in December 2019.

The state’s Leisure and Hospitality (tourism) sector had 99,300 jobs in June, up from 90,800 in May and 19,700 jobs below the 119,000 in June 2019. The sector reached a record for employment in July 2019 with 120,800 jobs.

The Financial Activities sector had 60,600 jobs in June, down from 61,100 May and down from the 62,800 in June 2019. The sector hit record employment of 62,900 in August 2019.

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