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State’s industrial jobs dip 1% in year

By Katie Doherty

This article was published November 13, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.

Manufacturing employment in Arkansas has dipped 1 percent over the past 12 months, an annual industrial directory has reported.

The 2013 Arkansas Manufacturers Register, published by Evanston, Ill.-based Manufacturers’ News Inc., reported that the state lost 1,930 manufacturing jobs between September 2011 and September of this year.

Since the start of the year, the publisher has reported on 36 states, and 72 percent of those gained manufacturing jobs over the previous year.

Arkansas is home to 3,537 manufacturers employing 194,564 workers, said Manufacturers News, which has been surveying industry for the past 100 years.

Northwest Arkansas accounts for the state’s largest share of industrial employment, with 109,324 manufacturing jobs, a figure that hasn’t significantly changed over the past year, the register said. Springdale is the top city for manufacturing employment, with 13,412 jobs, a 3.2 percent increase over the past year.

Little Rock ranked second in the state with 13,222 jobs, down 1.1 percent from 2011. The closure of a Whirlpool refrigerator plant in third-ranked Fort Smith contributed to a 12 percent decline in that city’s employment to 11,929 industrial jobs, the report said. Employment stayed mostly static in Rogers, while Pine Bluff saw a 5.3 percent decline in manufacturing jobs.

"Arkansas still struggles with decreased demand from the recession, particularly in those sectors influenced by the housing industry such as furniture and lumber," Manufacturers News President Tom Dubin said. "The good news is that Arkansas maintains low business costs, which has helped many existing businesses expand."

Over the year, manufacturers have expanded at companies including Custom Aircraft Cabinets in Sherwood; Firestone Building Products in Prescott; Peco Foods in Newark and Batesville; and ConAgra Foods in Russellville.  

The report said food products remains the state’s largest manufacturing sector, followed by fabricated metal in second; and industry machinery and equipment in third.

Sectors that lost jobs included printing and publishing; electronics; lumber; stone, clay and glass; furniture and fixtures; paper products; and rubbers and plastics. Job gains were seen in chemicals; petroleum products; and primary metals, the report said.

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