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story.lead_photo.caption Graphs and information about the Arkansas and U.S. joblessness rates.

Arkansas' unemployment rate in June was stuck at 3.8 percent for the fifth-straight month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

The national unemployment rate was 4 percent last month.

The trends that Arkansas has followed in the state's labor force and number of employed aren't encouraging, said Michael Pakko, chief economist for the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The two are shrinking, Pakko said.

The state's labor force has decreased by more than 6,200 since June 2017.

And there were about 7,400 fewer employed Arkansans in June when compared with June last year.

But the data supplied on nonfarm payroll jobs show a decent rate of return in job growth, Pakko said.

Payroll jobs and the labor force are calculated from two monthly surveys.

Arkansas' labor force is calculated through a survey of about 800 households in the state. Nonfarm payroll jobs are determined from a more comprehensive poll of thousands of Arkansas employers who are asked about the size of their workforces.

The nonfarm payroll survey is more credible because it has broader coverage, Pakko said.

For the first time since October, Arkansas added more than 10,000 nonfarm jobs in June, said Mervin Jebaraj, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

As has happened in the past, the state's metropolitan areas dominate the job growth. The four largest metropolitan areas -- Little Rock, Northwest Arkansas, Jonesboro and Fort Smith -- added 12,700 jobs in June.

"That means that the nonmetro areas have lost employment," Jebaraj said. "But they are losing employment at a much slower rate."

But one month doesn't make a trend, Jebaraj said.

Six industry sectors in Arkansas posted year-over-year increases in jobs last month, four saw a decline and one was unchanged.

The biggest increase came in the professional and business services sector, which grew by 7,100 jobs since June last year. The biggest category under professional and business services was administrative and support services, which added 6,500 of those jobs.

Administrative and support services are the lower-paying jobs within professional and business services, Pakko said.

Employment growth in the professional and business-services sector continues to lead Arkansas' economy, said Greg Kaza, executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation in Little Rock.

"The sector has the fastest growth rate of any Arkansas labor market in the current expansion," Kaza said.

Since June 2009, employment in the professional and business-services sector has grown by 34.5 percent, Kaza said.

Only two other sectors have grown by more than 10 percent in the same period -- the education and health-services sector at 16.4 percent and the leisure and hospitality sector at 14.8 percent, Kaza said.

Manufacturing continued to increase, adding 2,500 jobs since June 2017.

"[Manufacturing] has had a very strong performance compared to recent years," Pakko said.

In addition to manufacturing, the growth in construction and the goods producing side of the state's economy have looked pretty good over the past year, Pakko said.

Nationally, Arkansas added the second-highest percentage of construction jobs in June compared with June 2017, 2 percent, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. That equaled 1,000 jobs over the previous 12 months.

North Dakota had the highest seasonally adjusted percentage of new construction jobs at 3.7 percent, followed by Arkansas and three other states -- Arizona, Connecticut and Wyoming -- at 2 percent.

Forty-three states added construction jobs between June 2017 and June 2018.

"Construction is proving to be a reliable source of employment growth in nearly every state, and contractors are eager to hire even more workers," Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America, said in a prepared statement. "But finding qualified workers remains a significant challenge as other industries compete for talent, more workers reach retirement age, and fewer young adults chose to pursue careers in construction."

The biggest decline in Arkansas jobs was in the leisure and hospitality sector, which lost 1,200 jobs since June last year.

Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.1 percent, followed by North Dakota at 2.6 percent and Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire at 2.7 percent each.

Alaska had the highest rate at 7.1 percent, followed by West Virginia at 5.3 percent, New Mexico at 4.9 percent and Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Washington at 4.7 percent each.

Business on 07/21/2018

Print Headline: State's 3.8% jobless rate hanging on

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