Arkansas’ jobless rate has reached a record low despite fewer people being employed in the same month in 2020.
However, December’s Arkansas jobs data demonstrates that the jobless rate is not necessarily a strong predictor of economic health.
The state’s unemployment rate fell to a historic low of 3.1 percent in December, down from 3.4 percent in November and much below the 4.9 percent expected in December 2020.
Fewer Arkansans were employed in December 2021 than in December 2020, according to a study released on Tuesday by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (on January 25).
The December figures are preliminary and subject to change.
The number of people employed in the state in December was predicted to be 1,310,494, a decrease of 1,643 jobs from December 2020, but an increase from November’s 1,307,847.
The state’s labor force, or the number of eligible people to work, has also been falling.
The December tally was 1,353,108, which was 26,205 smaller than the 1,379,312 in December 2020 and even lower than the 1,354,206 in November.
Arkansans without work totaled 42,609 in December, down from 46,359 in November and far below the 67,171 expected in December 2020.
Arkansas’ labor force participation rate in December was 56.9 percent, down from 58.3 percent in December 2020 and falling below 57 percent for the first time in 2021.
The participation rate in November was reduced from 56.9 percent to 57 percent.
Professional and business services (8,600 more jobs) and manufacturing (8,600 more jobs) experienced the most year-over-year growth (up 5,800 jobs).
Construction, which lost 1,900 jobs over the year, and government, which lost 2,000 jobs, were the two largest employment sectors to lose jobs.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson blamed the December job and labor force reductions on the increasing Omicron variant of COVID-19.
He said. “You dig into the numbers and you see that we grew in manufacturing, we grew in hospitality numbers, and in a number of different sectors, but those were offset by losing workers in the healthcare industry and in education.
“And that is a concern to us. We want to look deeper into that. But it’s a reminder of the strain that our workforce sees and feels during this pandemic.”
Unemployment rates fell in 42 states and remained unchanged in eight.
The jobless rate in 48 states fell from a year ago, while the rate in two states remained unchanged.
The national unemployment rate, which was at 3.9 percent in December 2020, fell by 0.3 percentage points in a month and was 2.8 points lower.
With rates of 6.5 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively, California and Nevada had the highest unemployment.
In total, 17 states had unemployment rates higher than the national rate of 3.9 percent, 16 states had rates lower than the national rate, and 17 states had rates that were not significantly different from the national rate.
The state’s largest job category, Trade, Transportation, and Utilities, added 257,000 jobs in December, up from 256,800 in November and above the 253,700 expected in December 2020.
In December, the government sector In December employed 203,200 people, down from 203,400 in November and less than the 205,200 expected in December 2020. In May 2010, the number of people employed in the sector reached a high of 224,100.
The Education and Health Services sector employed 188,700 people, a decrease from 189,600 in November but an increase from 187,900 in December 2020.
The month of February 2020 reached a new high for sector employment, with 195,300 people employed.
Arkansas’ manufacturing industry employed 162,500 people, down from 161,800 in November but up from 156,700 in December 2020. Manufacturing, long the state’s largest employment sector, reached a new high of 247,600 in July 1995.
Professional and Business Services employed 151,100 people in December, up from 150,700 in November and far beyond the 142,500 projected for December 2020.
The state’s Leisure and Hospitality (tourist) sector employed 115,600 people in December, up from 114,400 in November and exceeding the 111,600 expected in December 2020. In December 2019, the sector set a new employment high of 122,900.
The Financial Activities sector In December, employed 67,700 people, down from 67,900 in November but up from 63,600 in December 2020. The November employment figure set a new high for the sector.