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Jobless rate falls in state to 3.5%, lowest on record

June unemployment shows solid economy, analyst says by John Magsam | July 20, 2019 at 4:30 a.m.

Arkansas' unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% in June, setting a record low as the number of Arkansans working is continuing to reach new highs, according to a report released Friday.

The 3.5% unemployment rate for Arkansas in June was down one-tenth of a percentage point from 3.6% in May and down from 3.7% for the same month last year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor released by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Development.

While the unemployment rate is being touted as a record it's not the first time Arkansas' unemployment rate has been reported as 3.5%. In September and October, the unemployment rate was initially reported at 3.5%, but the figure was later revised upward after all the available data were collected.

The unemployment rate for the U.S. stood at 3.7% in June, up from 3.6% in May and down three-tenths of a percentage point from 4% for June of 2018. For the month, 13 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. rate, 28 states had similar unemployment rates and nine states posted higher rates.

Arkansas' unemployment rate and job growth are keeping pace with the country overall said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He said the numbers show the economy is rolling along steadily.

Vermont reported the lowest unemployment rate in June at 2.1%, while Alaska had the highest rate at 6.4%. Arkansas, as well as Alabama, New Jersey and Texas all set new lows since comparable record keeping began in 1976. Six states saw unemployment decreases, with 44 states and the District of Columbia reporting relatively flat numbers.

Greg Kaza, executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, said the drop in the state's unemployment rate to a record low is consistent with the duration of the economic expansion, which entered a record 11th year this month.

Arkansas added 1,949 jobs in June, raising the number of the employed to 1,315,337, a record. June is the fifth-consecutive month the number of those employed has set a record. The number of Arkansans employed in June is up 1.2% from June last year.

There were 47,294 unemployed workers in June, down 2.5% from May and down 4.4% when compared to June of last year.

Nonfarm payroll jobs were down 5,100 to 1,278,000 in June from May, with five sectors showing losses attributed mostly to seasonal changes and six gaining jobs. The government segment lost 6,200 jobs, mostly pegged to summer breaks at schools and universities. A similar decline of 2,600 jobs was seen in education and health services. The largest gain, 3,300 jobs, was seen in leisure and hospitality which typically sees growth in the summer.

When compared with June 2018, nonfarm payroll jobs were up by 19,300, from 1,258,700, a 1.5% increase. Nine sectors saw job gains, with four of those adding at least 2,400 jobs. The leisure and hospitality sector added the most jobs when compared with last year, gaining 5,500 jobs in hotel and food services. Manufacturing added 3,800 jobs and construction 2,900, and trade, transportation and utilities had an increase of 2,400.

Mervin Jebaraj, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville said he was pleased to see the solid job growth year over year.

"It's pretty stellar and it's well distributed between sectors," he said.

Kaza noted Arkansas manufacturing not only is experiencing strong yearly growth, the sector has added 11,400 jobs since reaching a low in mid-2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Across the U.S., nonfarm payroll jobs in June increased in four states from the previous month. Comparing year to year, 28 states had gains in nonfarm payroll employment. The largest gains were in Texas, California and Florida, while the largest gain by percentage was in Nevada at 3.3%.

A Section on 07/20/2019

Print Headline: Jobless rate falls in state to 3.5%, lowest on record

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