Arkansas’ jobless rate dips to 4.4%, tourism sector continues to post most job losses

Arkansas had 18,549 fewer employed in March compared to March 2020, with 60% of the job losses coming from the state’s hard hit tourism sector, according to Friday’s (April 16) report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The state’s jobless rate in March was 4.4%, down from 4.5% in February and below the 3.8% in March 2020. The number of employed in Arkansas during March was an estimated 1,299,702, down 18,549 jobs compared with March 2020.

The biggest sector losses were in Leisure & Hospitality (11,100 fewer jobs), Government (down 8,600 jobs) and Education and Health Services (down 5,800 jobs). Manufacturing posted the largest year-over-year gains with 1,600 added jobs, and the Construction sector posted a year-over-year job gain of 1,000 jobs. The March numbers are preliminary and subject to revision. The report marked the first full year of COVID-19 impacts on the economy.

The state’s labor force – the number of people eligible to work – totaled 1,359,901 in March, down compared with the 1,372,102 in March 2020, and below the 1,363,690 in February. Arkansans without jobs in March totaled 60,199, up 11.8% from the 53,851 in March 2020 but below the 61,606 unemployed in February.

The BLS report also showed that 40 states had jobless rate increases from a year earlier and 10 states had little or no change. Hawaii and New York had the highest unemployment rates in March at 9% and 8.5%, respectively. Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont had the lowest rates at 2.9% each. In total, 27 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 6%, 11 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 12 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation, and Utilities sector – the state’s largest job category – was 251,100 in March, down from 251,900 in February and down from the 251,800 in March 2020. The sector reached record employment of 253,700 in January 2020.

The Government sector employed 204,900 in March, down from the 205,200 in February and below the 213,500 in March 2019. Sector employment hit a peak of 224,100 in May 2010.

The Education and Health Services sector employed 188,400 in March, up from 186,700 in February and below the 194,200 in March 2020. February 2020 set a record for sector employment at 195,300.

Arkansas’ manufacturing sector had 161,700 jobs, up from 160,900 in February and up from the 160,100 jobs in March 2019. Manufacturing, once the state’s largest jobs sector, posted record employment of 247,600 in July 1995.

Professional and Business Services employed 143,700 in March, up from 143,500 in February and down from 144,700 March 2020. The sector reached record employment of 147,100 in January 2020.

The state’s Leisure and Hospitality (tourism) sector had 109,700 jobs in March, up from 109,100 in February and well below the the 120,800 in March 2020. The sector first reached an employment record of 122,900 in December 2019.

The Financial Activities sector had 64,800 jobs in March, up from 64,100 in February and up from the 64,300 in March 2020. The sector first hit record employment of 64,300 in February 2020.

The Construction sector had 54,600 jobs in March, up from 54,500 in February and up from the 53,600 in March 2020. The sector reached record employment of 54,700 in November 2020.