Arkansas’ Jobless Rate Inches Up for August 2020

Arkansas' jobless rate inches up for August

Increase to 7.4% comes as surprise.

Arkansas’ unemployment rate rose to 7.4% in August, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a rise of three-tenths of a percentage point from July, but lower than the national average. Arkansas was one of four states to report a rising rate last month. “It’s unexpected,” said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The U.S. unemployment rate fell in August — a sign that more people around the country are returning to work after the economic shock created by the covid-19 pandemic. The number of unemployed people in the state rose by 6,456 to nearly 100,000, labor force data shows. However, the number of employed people also increased 31,763 to 1.24 million. That added 38,219 workers to the state’s civilian labor force. The number of nonfarm jobs rose 1% to 1.2 million month-to-month, but remains 4% lower from August of last year. Most of the additional jobs came from the government, retail, and administrative and support sectors. During a period of labor market weakness, workers who had dropped out of the labor market resume their search for employment, temporarily increasing the unemployment rate, Pakko said. “Time will tell if that is what’s going on,” he said, but the sharp increase in labor force participation suggests it could be a factor in the state’s unemployment uptick. The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 10.2% in July to 8.4% in August. Pakko said the trend has been for states with higher unemployment rates to see sharper declines, and those with relatively lower rates to see smaller declines or increases. For example, Arizona’s unemployment rate fell from 10.7% in July to 5.9% in August. Arkansas reported the 26th lowest rate in the U.S. last month, compared with Louisiana (7.6%), Mississippi (7.9%) and Tennessee (8.5%). Neighboring states with lower rates were Missouri (7%), Texas (6.8%) and Oklahoma (5.7%). From July to August, the number of nonfarm payroll jobs in Arkansas rose by 18,000, totaling 1.2 million, according to labor data that was not seasonally adjusted. The biggest gains came from the government sector, 7,600, attributed to the hiring of census workers and the start of a new school year. Next was hires in retail, 3,100, and administrative and support services, 3,000. There were also 1,000 or more jobs added in the educational and health services, construction, and leisure and hospitality sectors. National retailers such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot have fared well during the pandemic, but smaller stores have struggled or closed. Despite the challenging economy, retail jobs have rebounded, Pakko said. “This is somewhat surprising,” he said, and indicative of healthy consumer spending. Compared with August 2019, data show nonfarm jobs in Arkansas remain down by 45,500. Sectors with the largest declines were manufacturing, which has lost 17,900 jobs, followed by the leisure and hospitality sector with 17,800 fewer jobs, attributed to job losses in durable goods manufacturing and food services. The health care and social assistance sector has lost more than 10,000 jobs, and 2,200 are gone in the finance and real estate sectors. Meanwhile, the trade, transportation and utilities, and professional and business services sectors posted job gains of 7,800 and 1,600, respectively, from a year ago. August data show nearly 51,000 more unemployed individuals in the state compared with last year, when there were 69,000 more employed. To read the full article on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s website click here.

Following are labor market data for the eight metro areas.

Northwest Arkansas
Labor Force
July 2020: 274,123
July 2019: 284,839
July 2020: 258,521
July 2019: 276,309
July 2020: 15,602
July 2019:  8,530
Jobless Rate
July 2020: 5.7%
July 2019: 3%


Fort Smith Metro

Labor Force
July 2020: 115,571
July 2019: 120,296
July 2020: 107,266
July 2019: 115,522
July 2020: 8,305
July 2019: 4,774
Jobless Rate
July 2020: 7.2%
July 2019: 4%
Hot Springs


Labor Force
July 2020: 41,575
July 2019: 42,818

July 2020: 37,585
July 2019: 40,992

July 2020: 3,990
July 2019: 1,826

Jobless Rate
July 2020: 9.6%
July 2019: 4.3%

Labor Force
July 2020: 65,692
July 2019: 67,235

July 2020: 61,279
July 2019: 64,928

July 2020: 4,413
July 2019: 2,307

Jobless Rate
July 2020: 6.7%
July 2019: 3.4%
Central Arkansas

Labor Force
July 2020: 345,941
July 2019: 366,061

July 2020: 318,079
July 2019: 350,741

July 2020: 28,620
July 2019: 13,706

Jobless Rate
July 2020: 8.3%
July 2019: 3.7%

Memphis/ W. Memphis

Labor Force
July 2020: 628,584
July 2019: 653,760
July 2020: 546,613
July 2019: 622,722

July 2020: 81,971
July 2019: 31,038

Jobless Rate
July 2020: 13%
July 2019: 4.7%
Pine Bluff

Labor Force
July 2020: 33,690
July 2019: 35,418

July 2020: 30,555
July 2019: 33,286

July 2020: 3,135
July 2019: 2,132

Jobless Rate
July 2020: 9.3%
July 2019: 6%

Texarkana (AR-TX)

Labor Force
July 2020: 64,087
July 2019: 65,231

July 2020: 59,245
July 2019: 62,096

July 2020: 4,842
July 2019: 3,135

Jobless Rate
July 2020: 7.6%
July 2019: 4.8%

To read the full article on the Talk Business and Politics website click here.