State’s jobless rate dips to 4.4% as economy rides out pandemic

Arkansas’ joblessness rate dropped to 4.4% in March, moving the state closer to pre-pandemic levels. The national unemployment rate has also been decreasing and dropped to 6% in March.

However, Arkansas’ labor force has declined by more than 16,000 workers since the beginning of 2021. This raises concerns for policymakers and job recruiters because open positions may be harder to fill.

“The decline in the unemployment rate is another encouraging sign that we are emerging from the pandemic, and Arkansans have increasing opportunities to return to good-paying jobs,” Hutchinson said Friday in a statement.

“We do need to increase the numbers in the workforce, and the pandemic has reduced the number of Arkansans available to work,” he added. “Hopefully, this is short term because hundreds of employers need workers each day.”

Michael Pakko, Chief Economist with the Arkansas Economic Development Institute, said the state seems to be on a steady recovery. He says that the leisure and hospitality and food services sectors are improving, which is a good sign because these were some of the most hard hit sectors during the pandemic.

Pakko is not too concerned yet about the decreased labor pool. He says that the decline Arkansas is seeing now is likely related to a surge in employment last December.

In addition, Pakko noted that Arkansas has been faring better economically than the rest of the nation during the pandemic.

“We never suffered the job losses we saw on the national level and we’ve maintained a recovery pace that has kept us ahead of the United States in terms of proportionate job losses,” he said. “We have not been as hard hit as the rest of the country.”

Read the full story on the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette website here.