Arkansas unemployment rate up slightly

With a population of just over 3 million and a civilian labor force of about 1.4 million, Arkansas ranks in the bottom half of state rankings for employment, at number 34, according to the US News Best States Rankings.

The latest report on the unemployment rate in Arkansas, by the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, in conjunction with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, suggests that the state is unlikely to improve that ranking.

Arkansas' unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a point from November 2023 to December 2023 to finish at 3.4%, pushing the state’s figures for nonparticipation in the labor force to 42.2% or about 1.3 million people, with 47,798 of the civilian labor force out of jobs.

“The unemployment rate is the same as last December, while the labor force participation rate is up two-tenths of a percentage point,” the report said. “Compared to December 2022, nonfarm payroll jobs are up 14,500.”

While state employees decreased by 3,638, the government remained a top employer, with just over 214,000 Arkansans working for the government and 77,500 of those employed by the state.

Services in the trade, transportation and utilities sector remain the largest source of employment with 274,000 employees, but lost 6,100 workers from December 2022 to December 2023, the highest of all sectors. Likewise, manufacturing, which employs about 163,000 Arkansans, declined by 1,200 job openings.

On the other end of the spectrum, private education and health services gained an additional 9,200 workers, accounting for just over 212,000 jobs in the state. Construction was also strong, with 7,600 new jobs, while leisure and hospitality added 3,500 workers to round up the top three industries with job gains.

The loss of employment could impact Arkansans in different ways depending on the reason for that loss, according to a 2015 study on the impacts of job loss and unemployment reported by the National Library of Medicine.

“Job losses due to layoffs and those due to plant closings, and job loss occurring in different economic contexts, may also produce different effects because they are potentially different treatment conditions,” the study stated.

Job losses due to economic expansion or layoffs can call into question competency and character, which, in the long term, can cause anxiety and depressive symptoms as employment becomes more complex and those hiring consider the employability of the displaced worker., according to the study. But job loss due to external factors such as plant closings, economic recessions, the health of the macro-economy and firms’ decisions to restructure or relocate business units may produce a different reaction in displaced workers “Because such factors are clearly beyond the control of individual employees” and could befall anyone, it said.

“Such workers may endure lower economic and social-psychological burdens,” the study stated.


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