Arkansas Unemployment Drops to 4.2% in December

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Arkansas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.2% in December, down from 6.3% in November, the state Department of Workforce Services reported Tuesday.

November’s unemployment rate was revised up from the 6.2% the department originally reported.

Tuesday’s report said that, in December, Arkansas’ civilian labor force increased by 38,904 people.

More: See the full report here.

“After peaking at 10.8% in April, Arkansas’ unemployment has slowly declined throughout 2020 and fell to 4.2% in December. This drop reflects the cumulative impact of recent hiring, as more Arkansans report they are currently employed,” BLS Program Operations Manager Susan Price said in a news release.

The U.S. jobless rate, 6.7% in December, was unchanged from November.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson noted in a statement released late Tuesday that Arkansas’ unemployment rate is 2.5 percentage points lower than the national average.

“The coronavirus knocked the wind out of our sails for a moment, but the strong economic foundation we had built before the pandemic held firm, as I knew it would, and now a robust recovery is in sight,” he said in the statement. “The falling unemployment rate combined with the $319 million more than we expected in state revenue for fiscal year 2021 are signs that we have taken the right steps to limit the economic damage of COVID-19. This news does not soften the blow of the human toll on our state. We must continue to do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus and to come to the aid of the thousands of Arkansans who have lost loved ones to this disease.”

The statement also notes that Arkansas’ unemployment rate was 3.5% in February, jumped to 5% in March (when the state’s first COVID-19-related death was recorded), peaked at 10.8% in April, and has declined every month but one since then.

Compared to December 2019, nonfarm payroll jobs in Arkansas are down by 33,900. Eight major industry sectors posted job losses and three posted gains:

  • Manufacturing declined by 14,300 jobs, with reductions in both durable goods (-7,500) and nondurable goods (-6,800).

  • Jobs in leisure and hospitality fell by 13,700, with the most contraction being in food services (-10,500).

  • Government lost 9,600 jobs, mostly in local government (-8,200).

  • Educational and health services lost 9,200 jobs, mostly in health care and social assistance (-8,800).

  • Reductions occurred in other services (-4,300). and financial activities (-900).

  • Mining and logging lost 800 jobs, while Information lost 500.

  • But jobs in trade, transportation and utilities increased by 13,500.

  • Professional and business services added 3,100 jobs.

  • Construction gained 2,800 jobs.