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Arkansas unemployed numbers up in August, jobless rate ticks higher to 2.7%

People lined up to apply for unemployment assistance in 2020 at an Arkansas Division of Workforce Services office in Fayetteville.
Jacqueline Froelich
People lined up to apply for unemployment assistance in 2020 at an Arkansas Division of Workforce Services office in Fayetteville.

An increase in the number of jobless between July and August was partially responsible for Arkansas’ jobless rate rising from 2.6% in July to 2.7% in August. But the rate was lower than the 3.4% in August 2022, with a 2.13% year-over-year gain in new jobs.

The number of employed in Arkansas during August was an estimated 1,352,265, up 28,229 jobs, or 2.13%, compared with August 2022, and just above 1,351,370 in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report posted Tuesday (Sept. 19). The August numbers are preliminary and subject to revision.

Arkansas’ labor force, the number of people eligible to work, in August was 1,389,550, up 1.4% from 1,370,846 in August 2022 and above 1,386,944 in July.

Arkansans without jobs in August totaled 37,285, above the 35,624 in July, and down 20.3% compared with 46,810 in August 2022.

“The decline in the unemployment rate below 3% in Arkansas has been driven by a sharp drop in the number of unemployed since late 2022. The uptick in the August unemployment rate was similarly associated with an uptick in the number of unemployed. Meanwhile, household employment and the labor force have been expanding steadily throughout 2023,” noted Dr. Michael Pakko, chief economist and state economic forecaster at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Institute for Economic Advancement.

Pakko also suggested in his report that future revisions may show that the job numbers have not been as robust as originally reported.

“The sharp decline in the number of employed in recent months is remarkable. When the time comes for annual data revisions at the beginning of next year, we would not be surprised to see the declining unemployment to be largely revised away, along with the sub-3% readings on the unemployment rate,” he said.

The biggest year-over-year sector gains were in Leisure and Hospitality (11,300 more jobs), Education and Health Services (7,3000 more jobs), and Construction (5,800 more jobs). August saw record employment in the Leisure and Hospitality (tourism) and Construction sectors.

Unemployment rates were higher in August in 10 states, lower in 2 states, and stable in 38 states, according to the BLS. Twenty-five states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, 9 states had increases, and 16 states had little change. The national jobless rate of 3.8% was up from 3.5% in July and up from 3.7% in August 2022.

Maryland had the lowest jobless rate in August at 1.7%. The next lowest rates were in New Hampshire and Vermont at 1.8%. The rates in Louisiana (3.3%), Maryland (1.7%), and North Dakota (1.9%) set new series lows. (All state series begin in 1976.) Nevada had the highest unemployment rate at 5.4%. In total, 27 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 3.8%, 2 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 21 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.

Trade, Transportation, and Utilities
August 2023: 272,900
July 2023: 273,600
August 2022: 271,200
February marked an employment record for the sector with 276,500 jobs.

August 2023: 209,700
July 2023: 209,500
August 2022: 207,900
Sector employment hit a peak of 224,100 in July 2010.

Education and Health Services
August 2023: 208,300
July 2023: 207,900
August 2022: 201,000
June marked a new employment record for the sector with 209,000 jobs.

August 2023: 164,600
July 2023: 164,900
August 2022: 163,700
Manufacturing, once the state’s largest jobs sector, posted record employment of 247,600 in February 1995.

Professional and Business Services
August 2023: 153,300
July 2023: 151,400
August 2022: 155,900
September 2022 marked an employment record for the sector with 156,300 jobs.

Leisure and Hospitality
August 2023: 133,900
July 2023: 132,300
August 2022: 122,600
August marked a new employment record for the sector.

Financial Activities
August 2023: 70,500
July 2023: 70,900
August 2022: 71,400
The sector had record employment of 71,500 in September 2022.

August 2023: 64,100
July 2023: 63,500
August 2022: 58,300
August marked a new employment record for the sector.