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Arkansas' unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.6 percent in November from 3.5 percent in October, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

The United States' joblessness rate remained unchanged at 3.7 percent.

"When it comes right down to it, the change isn't statistically significant," said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. "It's still the case that our unemployment rate is very low."

Arkansas' civilian labor force at the end of November was 1,348,194 people, up 1,604 from the same month in 2017 when the civilian labor force was 1,357,161, according to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services. The difference was the result of an additional 867 employed and 737 additional unemployed Arkansans.

Nonfarm payroll jobs in Arkansas increased 1,100 in November from October to total 1,264,800, the agency said. Six major industry sectors added jobs while employment in five sectors declined.

The slight increase in the number of unemployed people for the second month in a row was balanced by an increase in the number of jobs, Pakko said.

"The labor force is expanding, and that's actually a positive sign," he said.

The greatest gain in nonfarm payroll jobs occurred in trade, transportation and utilities sector, which added 3,200 jobs. Most of that number -- 3,100 -- was attributed to retail trade "as stores began seasonal hiring for the winter holidays," the agency said.

"The boost in retail employment is a regular seasonal effect we see at this time of year," Pakko said. "It's a little bit bigger than we would ordinarily associate with the seasonal boost in retail so that bodes well at least for the retailers' expectations about the holiday season."

Overall job growth continues to be focused on the service sector, which includes professional and business and education and health services, he said.

"That's where we continue to see the job growth," Pakko said. "Both were slower this month, but over the longer run, that's where the expansion is taking place."

Greg Kaza, executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, said private sector employment "was positive, though modest, on a year-to-year basis."

It grew 1.2 percent in November compared with the same month in 2017 "with seven of 10 sectors registering positive growth," Kaza said.

They were led by professional and business services, which climbed 3.4 percent to 150,900 jobs and educational and health services, which grew 2.2 percent to 191,500 jobs. Manufacturing grew to 160,500 jobs in November, a 2 percent increase from the same month a year ago.

The number of government jobs, at 216,400, was slightly higher than a year ago when the count was 216,200.

Arkansas added 1,100 construction jobs from November 2017 to last month, one of 44 states that added construction jobs in the past year, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

"November was the first month this year in which fewer than half the states experienced monthly increases in construction employment," said Ken Simonson, the organization's chief economist. "At a time when job openings are at record highs, the recent slowdown in hiring in some states may indicate contractors are unable to find qualified workers, rather than a slackening in demand for construction."

Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate in October at 2.3 percent; followed by Iowa at 2.4 percent; New Hampshire at 2.6 percent; Idaho at 2.7 percent; and four states at 2.8 percent -- Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Vermont.

Alaska had the highest rate at 6.4 percent; followed by West Virginia at 5.2 percent; Louisiana at 5 percent; and Arizona and Mississippi at 4.7 percent each.

Business on 12/22/2018

Print Headline: State's jobless rate ticks up to 3.6%

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