Arkansas’s unemployment rate remained stable in July at 3.9%. The rate was the same for June, after dropping for months. The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services released the figures Friday. The nation’s unemployment rate for the month also held steady at 4.9%.
Even though the number of people with jobs actually declined for the month by 2,700, the numbers were seasonally adjusted, with the professional and business service sectors remaining the strongest.
Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Walton College at the University of Arkansas, says the dip in the number of jobs for July is typical.
“You have to be careful when you look at the July numbers sometimes because in particular, teachers are sometimes on nine and 10 month contracts and they exit the labor force in the summer and it makes things look a little different than in other months. But this July looks great compared to Julys we’ve seen in the past,” Deck says
Michael Pakko, an economist with the Arkansas Economic Advancement Institute, concurs that the fewer number of jobs in July was a fact “seasonal in nature.”
“It had to do with schools being out for the summer, school cafeterias being closed down, things like that. Overall we’re seeing significant job growth in some of the service sectors… including professional and business services, education and health services and to some extent leisure and hospitality as well,” he says.
As a whole, Pakko says the report confirms that the Arkansas labor market remains strong.
“Looking past the month to month changes, things are looking pretty good. The unemployment rate compared to July 2015 is down by 1.3%. That’s the largest year over year decline in the country, a full percentage point lower than the United States. Even though we’ve seen a couple months of weakness, that should detract from the overall trend that labor market conditions have improved considerably in Arkansas in the past year or so,” Pakko says.
Deck says she doesn’t expect the unemployment rate to go down much further, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“The way things are looking right now, there’s not a whole lot of pressure on the economy for those to change in the negative direction. So, Arkansas’s economy is really clicking along right now,” Deck says.
The construction sector showed a modest gain in employment. The mining and logging and manufacturing continued a steady decline.