Arkansas' unemployment rate in March fell to 3.7 percent from 3.8 percent in February, bolstered by the third-straight month of growth in the number of employed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.
The national unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in March, unchanged from February.
The difference in the unemployment rates between February and March is because the bureau rounded off a few hundredths of a percentage point, said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
"It's really like looking at nothing more than rounding error," Pakko said. "It has varied between 3.73 percent and 3.77 percent. I would say it's probably accurate to say the unemployment rate is steady at 3.75 percent."
There were 2,079 more Arkansans employed in March than in February, said Susan Price of the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.
In the past three months, the number of employed Arkansans has risen by 3,800.
"The number of employed is up 8,585 compared to March 2018," Price said, based on a survey of several hundred Arkansas households.
It's good to see the labor force increasing, even if only slightly, said Mervin Jebaraj, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Arkansas gained about 9,900 jobs in the past year, based on a survey of Arkansas businesses. About 9,200 of those jobs were in the state's three largest statistical areas -- Northwest Arkansas, central Arkansas and Jonesboro, Jebaraj said.
Recent revisions of the employment data indicated that the annual growth was in the neighborhood of 9,000 jobs in the three largest metropolitan areas and about 3,000 more jobs in other metro areas and rural areas, Jebaraj said.
An increase of only about 700 jobs in the state's rural areas, as the March numbers indicated, was the lowest total for rural Arkansas since February 2017, Jebaraj said.
There were gains in eight industrial sectors and job losses in three sectors, from March last year to March this year.
The biggest increase in jobs came in manufacturing, which grew by 3,300 positions.
"Over the past couple of years, manufacturing has been outpacing most of the other sectors," Pakko said.
That has been important particularly because manufacturing, which for years lost thousands of jobs in Arkansas, is now adding more jobs than some of the faster growing service sectors, Pakko said.
The professional and business services sector and the education and health services sector seem to have slowed in growth, Pakko said.
"The trend is still up [in those two sectors], although professional and business services has lost jobs in the past year," Pakko said.
Arkansas added 1,100 construction jobs from February to March. That was more than just a seasonal gain, Pakko said.
"That is a significant increase, even considering we're getting into the warmer spring months," Pakko said.
The gain equals a one-month job increase of 2.1 percent, which tied for third among all states in percentage increase, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Washington was first with 6.6 percent growth and Minnesota was second with 2.2 percent growth.
Twenty-nine states added construction jobs between February and March.
"Although construction has added jobs in many states at a higher rate than the private sector as a whole in the past year, the record number of job openings at the end of February shows contractors would add even more workers if they could," stated Ken Simonson, chief economist for the contractors association. "There is no sign of a letup in the demand for construction workers."
Contractors are struggling to find enough qualified workers to hire to keep pace with the ongoing demand for construction, said Stephen Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer.
North Dakota and Vermont had the lowest unemployment rates at 2.3 percent each, followed by Iowa and New Hampshire at 2.4 percent each and Hawaii, Nebraska and South Dakota at 2.8 percent each.
Alaska had the highest rate at 6.5 percent, followed by New Mexico and West Virginia at 5.1 percent each, Arizona at 5 percent and Mississippi at 4.9 percent.
Metro on 04/20/2019
Print Headline: State's jobless rate drops to 3.7%