Higher jobless numbers push Arkansas’ October jobless rate up to 3.1%

A continued rise in the number of Arkansans without jobs pushed the state’s jobless rate from 2.9% in September to 3.1% in October. It’s the first time the jobless rate has been at or above 3% since March.

The number of employed in Arkansas during October was an estimated 1,350,628, up 27,041 jobs, or 2.04%, compared with October 2022, and below the 1,352,441 in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report posted Friday (Nov. 17). The October numbers are preliminary and subject to revision.

Arkansas’ labor force, the number of people eligible to work, in October was 1,393,177, up 1.6% from the 1,371,549 in October 2022 and above the 1,392,374 in September.

Arkansans without jobs in October totaled 42,549, 6.6% above the 39,933 in September and down 11.3% compared with the 47,962 in October 2022.

Dr. Michael Pakko, chief economist and state economic forecaster at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Institute for Economic Advancement, said the October numbers were weak but the state remains at record highs for employment.

“Clearly it was a weak report. Combined with data from the previous two months, there are unambiguous signs of weakening of Arkansas labor markets,” Pakko noted in a statement to Talk Business & Politics. “Nevertheless, some of the recent increases in unemployment followed sharp declines earlier in the year (which might very well be revised away in the annual revisions), and unemployment in the 3% range is still historically very low. The recent slowdown in employment trends is not unexpected, and we are still near record highs for employment.”

The biggest year-over-year sector gains were in Construction (7,700 more jobs), Education and Health Services (6,900) and Leisure and Hospitality (6,100). October saw record employment in the Construction sector.

Not seasonally adjusted figures from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services provide detail into job growth within the state’s rapidly recovering tourism industry. Jobs in the sector precipitously dropped to 74,300 in April 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began to fully emerge, but began to recover in 2022. The sector posted record employment of 133,400 jobs in August.

The state numbers show 14,200 jobs in the Arts, Entertainment and Recreation subsector in October, up from 13,000 in October 2022. The Accommodation Services (hotels, lodging) subsector had 11,800 jobs in October, up from 11,400 in October 2022. The Food Services subsector had 105,200 jobs in October, up 4.3% compared with the 100,900 jobs in October 2022.

Unemployment rates were higher in October in 26 states and stable in 24 states, according to the BLS report. Twenty-one states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, 12 states had increases, and 17 states had little change. The national unemployment rate of 3.9% was up from 3.7% in October 2022.

Maryland had the lowest jobless rate in October at 1.7%. The next lowest rate was in North Dakota at 1.9%. Nevada had the highest unemployment rate at 5.4%. In total, 26 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. rate of 3.9%, 4 states had higher rates, and 20 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.

Trade, Transportation, and Utilities
October 2023: 270,700
September 2023: 271,400
October 2022: 274,900
February marked an employment record for the sector with 276,500 jobs.

October 2023: 210,600
September 2023: 210,000
October 2022: 209,200
Sector employment hit a peak of 224,100 in July 2010.

Education and Health Services
October 2023: 208,500
September 2023: 209,200
October 2022: 201,600
September marked a new employment record for the sector.

October 2023: 161,600
September 2023: 162,200
October 2022: 164,400
Manufacturing, once the state’s largest jobs sector, posted record employment of 247,600 in February 1995.

Professional and Business Services
October 2023: 151,500
September 2023: 153,300
October 2022: 152,600
September 2022 marked an employment record for the sector with 156,300 jobs.

Leisure and Hospitality
October 2023: 130,800
September 2023: 132,400
October 2022: 124,700
August marked a new employment record for the sector with 133,400 jobs.

Financial Activities
October 2023: 70,600
September 2023: 71,200
October 2022: 71,400
The sector had a record employment of 71,500 in September 2022.

October 2023: 65,600
September 2023: 64,800
October 2022: 57,900
October marked a new employment record for the sector.

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