The end of 2013 saw a drop in the unemployment rate in Arkansas. The state Department of Workforce Services released numbers showing the unemployment rate dropped one tenth of a percentage point in December, to 7.4 percent. Over the same period, the national rate dropped to 6.7 percent from 7.0 percent. The total civilian labor force rose by 2,600, according to the report.
“Trade, Transportation and Utilities added 1,600 jobs. That was mostly due to the holiday hiring in retail trade,” says Becky Helfin, spokeswoman for the Department of Workforce Services, noting that was the largest increase of jobs for any industry sector of November of 2013.
Other industry classifications in the Arkansas Nonfarm Payroll like Leisure and Hospitality, State and Local Government, and Professional and Business Services lost a combined 5,200 jobs in December.
Michael Pakko, an economist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock says these latest numbers are good news for the state, as overall employment did increase, but the long-term trend is worrying.
“Really over the past two years there’s been some somewhat disturbing trends in the Arkansas data... The level of household employment has been in decline and also the labor force participation rate has been falling,” he says.
Pakko says factors like household employment and labor force participation have contributed to a lower national unemployment rate, but have not translated into lower unemployment figures for Arkansas.
Despite the lack of progress in bringing down the unemployment rate, Pakko admits that the new figures are “a pretty good way to end the year.”
Last month’s lost jobs in the state’s service and retail industries is unusual, Pakko says, since those have been some of the strongest sectors in recent months.