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story.lead_photo.caption Information about Arkansas, U.S. joblessness rates - Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / SOURCE: Arkansas Department of Workforce Services and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Arkansas' unemployment rate slipped to a record 3.8 percent in January, the lowest level in the state's history, from 3.9 percent in December, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

The national unemployment rate was 4.8 percent in January.

Since 1957, as far back as data is available, Arkansas' unemployment rate has not been as low as 3.8 percent, according to the bureau.

The bureau initially reported that Arkansas' unemployment rate for May 2016 was 3.8 percent. But the bureau released its annual revisions with January's unemployment report, raising the May rate to 4.1 percent.

"We had a mixed report," said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The good news included the record low unemployment rate and the monthly survey of about 800 households in the state that showed a decline of about 6,000 unemployed Arkansans compared with January last year, Pakko said.

But there were also about 2,300 fewer employed Arkansans from the previous January, which meant a drop in the civilian labor force of about 8,300 Arkansans.

"The labor force is beginning to shrink again," said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Even though the decline in the labor force is more than it has been in recent months, it is essentially flat on a percentage basis -- down 0.6 percent -- from January 2015, said John Shelnutt, the administrator for economic analysis and tax research for the state's Department of Finance and Administration

"You can't make a big statement based on this decline at this point," Shelnutt said.

The revised data, which went back to 2010, showed a small but steady decrease in unemployment each month since March 2011, said Susan Price, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.

Nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 11,800 in January.

All of that increase came from two metropolitan areas in the state, Deck said. Northwest Arkansas had 9,000 more jobs than in January 2016 and central Arkansas added 2,800 jobs.

All seven metropolitan areas added a total of 13,700 jobs, Deck said. So rural areas in the state lost a total of almost 2,000 jobs, Deck said.

Seven industry sectors in Arkansas had job gains in January compared with January last year. Four sectors had job losses.

The educational and health services sector added 6,500 jobs in the past year, by far the biggest increase in the state. Next was the professional and business services sector, which added 2,700 jobs.

Manufacturing added 2,100 jobs, the biggest one-year gain for the sector since January 2015, when manufacturing increased by 3,500 jobs.

Government had biggest annual loss with a decline of 1,600 jobs.

Construction is not positive compared with a year earlier, losing 200 jobs, Deck said.

That is despite home construction and a big push for infrastructure improvements, Deck said.

New Hampshire had the lowest unemployment rate in the country in January at 2.7 percent, followed by Hawaii at 2.8 percent, Colorado and South Dakota at 2.9 percent each and North Dakota at 3 percent.

New Mexico had the highest unemployment rate at 6.7 percent, followed by Alaska at 6.5 percent, Alabama at 6.4 percent, Louisiana at 5.9 percent and Illinois at 5.7 percent.

Business on 03/14/2017

Print Headline: State jobless rate falls to record 3.8%

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