Arkansas’ October jobless rate rises to 7.5%

Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by The City Wire and presented by Fort Smith-based Benefit Bank. Other supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Arkansas’ jobless rate rose to 7.5% in October, the highest level for the year, thanks primarily to the largest number of unemployed in the state in the past 20 months and a slight decline in the labor force size.

The October jobless rate was up from the 7.4% in September and higher than the 7.2% in October 2012, according to the Friday morning (Nov. 22) report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Arkansas’ labor force was an estimated 1.321 million in October, down just 0.05%, compared to September and down almost 2% compared to October 2012.

The number of employed in Arkansas during October was 1.221 million, a drop of 2,096 compared to September and a drop of 29,575 compared to October 2012 – or down 2.36%.

Arkansas’ annual average jobless rate fell from 7.9% during 2011 to 7.3% during 2012. Also, October marked the 57th consecutive month that Arkansas’ jobless rate has been at or above 7%.

The number of unemployed rose to 99,570 during October, up from the 98,403 in September and up 2.2% compared to the 97,402 in October 2012.

Greg Kaza, director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation and an economic researcher, said the October report does not reflect well on the state’s economy.

“Today's employment report for October continues the unprecedented decline in Arkansas' civilian labor force. The decline is documented in state labor market records that date to the mid-1970s,” Kaza noted in a statement to The City Wire. “Arkansas' civilian labor force contracted to 1,321,500 in October, well below its level (1,352,800) in June 2009 when the Great Recession ended and a new expansion started.”

ARKANSAS SECTOR NUMBERS
In the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — Arkansas’ largest job sector — employment during October was an estimated 254,100, up from 252,000 in September and well ahead of the 246,500 during October 2012.

Manufacturing jobs in Arkansas during October totaled 155,500, down from the 155,400 in September and below the 155,200 in October 2012. Employment in the manufacturing sector fell in 2012 to levels not seen since early 1968. Peak employment in the sector was 247,300 in February 1995.

Government job employment during October was 215,000, up from 214,300 in September and below the 216,000 during October 2012.

The state’s Education and Health Services sector during October had 176,600 jobs, up from the 175,700 during September and up from 173,300 during October 2012. Employment in the sector is up more than 25% compared to October 2003.

Arkansas’ tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) employed 102,600 during October, up from 101,900 during September, but below the 103,400 during October 2012. At a revised 103,700, January 2013 marked a new employment high in the sector.

NATIONAL DATA
The BLS report also noted that 38 states had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, 10 states had increases, and two states had no change. The national jobless rate during October was at 7.3%, and was down from the 8.1% in October 2012.

Nevada had the highest unemployment rate among the states in October at 9.3%. The next highest rate was in Rhode Island with 9.2%, followed by Michigan at 9%. North Dakota again had the lowest jobless rate at 2.7%.

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The October jobless rate in Oklahoma was 5.5%, up from 5.4% in September and 5.2% in October 2012.

Missouri’s jobless rate during October was 6.5%, down from 6.9% in September and up compared to 6.7% in October 2012.

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