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story.lead_photo.caption Information about Arkansas and U.S. joblessness rates - Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / SOURCE: Arkansas Department of Workforce Services and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The annual revision of employment data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Arkansas' unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in January, the same for every month since June, the bureau said Monday.

The national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in January.

At the first of every year, the bureau revises previous months' data in several categories for the state, including the labor force, the number of employed and unemployed, and the unemployment rate.

The purpose of annual processing is to incorporate more complete and accurate information into the estimation process, the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services said.

"[The bureau] revised away a lot of the strong growth we had seen earlier in the year, along with a really sharp decline we had later in the year," said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. "So what we're left with after the revisions is a slow if not stagnating job growth over the latter part of 2017."

As Pakko had expected, the revisions of Arkansas' unemployment rate wiped out the historically low rate of 3.4 percent originally reported by the bureau in May, June and July. The bureau said that the correct unemployment rate for Arkansas was 3.6 percent in May and 3.7 percent in June and July.

Pakko said in January that he expected the annual revisions to change the 3.4 percent rates.

"I wouldn't be surprised if once we see all the numbers [from the revisions] that the unemployment rate didn't, in fact, fall below 3.5 percent," Pakko said two months ago.

The revisions show that the state's unemployment rate has varied little since December 2016. For every month since then, the updated unemployment rate has been either 3.6 percent or 3.7 percent.

That leaves the state's record for the lowest unemployment rate at 3.6 percent in February, March, April and May last year.

The revisions simply smoothed out the variations in the unemployment rate for the past two years, said Mervin Jebaraj, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

"In general, the trend stayed somewhat similar," Jebaraj said. "We continue to enjoy some of the lowest unemployment rates we've had."

Last year, Arkansas had a good mix of employment in metropolitan and rural areas, Jebaraj said. Both areas had decent growth in employment throughout 2017, Jebaraj said.

But in January, most of the growth in employment occurred in metropolitan areas, with the smaller areas losing a significant number of jobs, Jebaraj said.

Metropolitan areas added about 9,100 jobs for the 12 months ending in January, but the smaller population areas lost 2,800 jobs.

"We're not sure if that's going to be a trend going forward," he said.

Original estimates showed that the number of employed Arkansans declined in 2017, Susan Price, with the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, said in a prepared statement.

But the revisions now indicate employment trended upward throughout 2017, Price said.

There were 6,833 more employed Arkansans in January compared with a year earlier. But there also were 1,156 more unemployed Arkansans in January compared with January 2017.

Overall, the civilian labor force grew in the past year by almost 8,000 Arkansans.

Jobs increased for seven industry sectors since January 2017, and jobs were lost in four sectors.

The educational and health services sector added 3,000 jobs in the past year, followed by a gain of 2,400 jobs in manufacturing and an increase of 2,100 jobs in the professional and business services sector.

There were 158,200 manufacturing jobs in Arkansas in January, noted Greg Kaza, executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation in Little Rock.

The job creation in manufacturing in 2017 leaves Arkansas with the 28th-largest manufacturing sector in the country, Kaza said.

California has the largest manufacturing industry with 1.3 million jobs in January, almost 500,000 more jobs than second-place Texas, Kaza said.

There were 2,600 jobs lost in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, the biggest decline of any sector.

Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate in January at 2.1 percent, followed by North Dakota at 2.6 percent, and Iowa, Nebraska and Vermont at 2.9 percent each.

Alaska had the highest unemployment rate in the country at 7.3 percent, followed by New Mexico at 5.9 percent, West Virginia at 5.4 percent, Nevada at 4.9 percent, and Illinois and Pennsylvania at 4.8 percent each.

Business on 03/13/2018

Print Headline: State's jobless rate stays put at 3.7%

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  • RBear
    March 13, 2018 at 7:17 a.m.

    We are at what most economists call full employment as evidenced by the following statement, "The annual revision of employment data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Arkansas' unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in January, the same for every month since June, the bureau said Monday."

    There is some slack in the job market, but it's very slim. In most cases, people are shifting jobs to find better wages since growth in that area seems to not be advancing. We need to be working at helping retrain workers to bring more into the force.