State Sees End To Months-Long Decrease In Unemployment

Sep 18, 2020

After an increase of the unemployment rate to over 10% in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state saw a months long trend in decreasing unemployment until the latest report.
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Arkansas’ unemployment rate ended its decreasing trend in the month of August, increasing by .3%. The current unemployment rate in the state is now 7.4%

According to data produced by the U.S. Department of Labor, Arkansas’ unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate, which totaled 8.4% in August.

In a news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, the state’s unemployment rate increased “due to the sizable growth of the civilian labor force.” The labor force gains are related to a surge in the number of employed Arkansans, though there is also an increase in Arkansans actively looking for work, adding to the unemployment rate.

After jumping to 10.2% in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rate had decreased each subsequent month, dropping to a low of 7.1% in July. The current unemployment rate of 7.4% is 2.6% greater than the rate in March, which then indicated the first impacts of the pandemic.

Arkansas’s total nonfarm payroll jobs rose by 18,000 in August with the government and trade, transportation and utility sectors seeing the biggest increases. Seven industry sectors added jobs in August, according to the report.

Jobs in government increased by 7,600, with Census hiring responsible for 3,300 of those positions. The beginning of the 2020/2021 school year also played a role in the increase of government jobs, with local and state educational services adding a combined 4,400 jobs.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector added 3,900 jobs, with the report crediting retail trade as the biggest subsection, adding 3,100 jobs.

While estimates from the Civilian Labor Force are seasonally adjusted, the Nonfarm Payroll Summary is not, meaning that while the two data sets often move in the same direction, they are not directly compatible. Because the Nonfarm Payroll Summary did not account for the summer break, the return to school counted as an increase in jobs.

Compared to August of 2019, the state has seen a decrease of 45,500 jobs, with the manufacturing industry reporting the largest loss of 17,900 positions. Leisure and hospitality came in second with a loss of 17,800 jobs, with 13,500 of them, or just under 76% percent, in the food services industry.