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How low can we go? May 24, 2023 at 3:45 a.m.

The state could do worse than to get the PR types on this: How about a commercial, like the ones you see on The Weather Channel--but instead of Missouri or Florida or Louisiana, this commercial would be an ad for Arkansas. And instead of featuring lakes or golfers or somebody in New Orleans playing a trumpet, this commercial would focus on "TWO-POINT-EIGHT!"

The state's new unemployment rate, announced last week, is 2.8 percent--a new record. The headlines said "all-time low," but that's a bit of hyperbole. Once upon a time, every able-bodied person had to work or starve. Then modern times arrived, with modern government, and it began keeping up with the unemployment rate. This is the lowest level in the record.


If you want a job, you can get a job. Them's the facts. Say it loud and spread it around: Arkansas is hiring.

Those working in the Dismal Science (economics) say 5 percent unemployment can be considered full employment. Because, the dismalers say, 5 percent can be explained away as "frictional" unemployment. That is, there are always groups of people quitting jobs to take other jobs, and fresh graduates coming out of school, and/or folks taking a career break. Thus these few people cause frictional unemployment, and they probably won't be that way long.

(Folks should think about 2.8 percent--and Arkansas' actual full employment--before they hand out cash to cardboard sign-holders from their car windows at busy intersections. But that's another editorial or seven.)

And the unemployment rate in this state isn't just a numbers game, as it can be on the national level. There aren't tens of thousands of Arkansawyers who've given up job hunting, thus aren't counted. Andrew Moreau reports: "The state also set a record high in the number of employed Arkansans: Nonfarm payroll reached 1.36 million jobs. Compared with April 2022, there were 12,869 more Arkansans employed last month."

This is such a "wow" moment that it almost makes economics non-­dismal-ish.

"It's very encouraging, not only the record low unemployment, but the record high of the number of Arkansans working," said Clint O'Neal, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. "It's not just getting folks off unemployment, but it indicates people are moving into the state and more people are working."

Another economist, Michael Pakko, was quoted in the story: "The numbers continue to show that we have a really strong labor market here in Arkansas. With the 2.8 percent unemployment rate, if you would have asked me a few months ago if that was even possible, I would have questioned it and certainly wouldn't have forecast it."

That's economist-speak for "Holy cow."

And what happens in this kind of environment? The labor pool produces more. More folks are taking home pay, to spend at more businesses. State and local governments get more tax money to pay for more road work, etc.

And more companies will want to relocate here to take advantage of the labor pool. If those companies only knew about our 2.8 percent.

How's that commercial coming? "The Naturally 2.8 Percent State" sounds good.

Print Headline: Jobs fair


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