January marks 60 months of Arkansas’ jobless rate above 7%

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 dipped to 7.3% in January thanks to a more than 2.6% drop in the number of unemployed. However, January marked 60 consecutive months – five years – that the state’s jobless rate has been at or above 7%.

The jobless rate of 7.3% was down from 7.4% in December and down from 7.5% in January 2013, according to the report issued Monday (March 17) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Arkansas’ labor force was an estimated 1.328 million in January, up slightly compared to December, but down compared to 1.329 million in January 2013. The year-over-year comparison shows an estimated 1,391 fewer Arkansans in the labor force.

The number of employed in Arkansas during January was 1.231 million, above December employment of 1.228 million, and up compared to the 1.229 million in January 2013.

The number of unemployed was an estimated 96,833 during January, down from the 98,484 in December, and down 2.62% compared to the 99,443 in January 2013.

Arkansas’ annual average jobless rate fell from 7.9% during 2011 to a revised 7.5% during 2012. The initial annual average jobless rate for Arkansas during 2013 is 7.5%.

The federal BLS issued this statement with its January labor report: “Effective with this release, nonfarm payroll estimates for states and metropolitan areas have been revised as a result of annual benchmark processing to reflect 2013 employment counts primarily from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), as well as updated seasonal adjustment factors. Not seasonally adjusted data back to April 2012 were revised. Seasonally adjusted data from January 1990 were subject to revision.”

ARKANSAS SECTOR NUMBERS
In the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — Arkansas’ largest job sector — employment during January was an estimated 243,400, down from 244,200 in December and ahead of the 240,800 during January 2013. Employment in the sector hit a high of 251,800 in March 2007.

Manufacturing jobs in Arkansas during January totaled 153,500, up compared to 151,800 in December and below the 154,000 in January 2013. Employment in the manufacturing sector fell in 2013 to levels not seen since early 1968. Peak employment in the sector was 247,300 in February 1995.

Government job employment during January was 215,200, down from 215,800 in December and below the 216,100 during January 2012.

The state’s Education and Health Services sector during January had 172,900 jobs, down from the 173,500 during December and up from 171,100 during January 2013. Employment in the sector is up more than 22.6% compared to January 2004.

Arkansas’ tourism sector (leisure & hospitality) employed 109,100 during January, up from a revised 106,900 during December, and above the 104,400 during January 2013. The January employment tally sets a new record for the sector. The number is subject to revision in future reports.

NATIONAL DATA
The BLS report also noted that all states had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier. The national jobless rate during January was at 6.6%, and was down from the 7.9% in January 2013.

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Rhode Island had the highest unemployment rate among the states in January at 9.2%. The next highest rate was Nevada at 8.7% and Illinois at 8.7%. North Dakota again had the lowest jobless rate at 2.6%.

The January jobless rate in Oklahoma was 5.2%, down compared to 5.4% to December and down from 5.4% in January 2013.

Missouri’s jobless rate during January was 6%, unchanged compared to December and down compared to 6.7% in January 2013.

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