The most recent statistics available from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services show a slight dip in the city of Pine Bluff’s unemployment rate.
The city’s unemployment rate for August was 5.7 percent, down from 6.2 percent in July. September state numbers show a 3.5 percent unemployment rate, down from 3.4 percent in August. September numbers are not yet available locally, according to the workforce services department.
Mervin Jebaraj, assistant director of the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business, said one reason for the summer uptick was due to teachers being off for several months. While they get a paycheck year-round, most are on a 9-month contract, he said.
“They technically go off the payrolls during the summer months,” he said. “And it shows an upward trend in unemployment. This data is gathered through surveys and payroll analysis.”
The state’s highest unemployment rate for August was 6.7 percent in Blytheville in northeast Arkansas. The lowest rate was in Springdale at 2.4 percent. Pine Bluff is one of six metropolitan statistical areas measured by the state’s workforce department.
Data from August shows that the Pine Bluff area had a 4.9 percent unemployment rate, which is the highest in the group of five. However, that’s down from 5.2 percent in July. The group is made up of the Little Rock/ North Little Rock/Conway area; the Jonesboro area; the Hot Springs area; the Fort Smith, Arkansas and Oklahoma area, and the Fayetteville/Springdale/Rogers, Arkansas and Missouri areas. The Fayetteville/Springdale/Rogers, Arkansas and Oklahoma group saw the lowest unemployment rate in the state for metropolitan statistical areas at 2.7 percent.
Jonesboro and the Little Rock group tied for second at 3.2 percent, while Hot Springs followed at 3.8 percent.
The Fort Smith area sat behind the Pine Bluff area with a 4.3 percent unemployment rate. Pine Bluff’s metropolitan area is made up of Jefferson, Lincoln and Cleveland counties. For August, Lincoln County reported a 3.8 percent unemployment rate, while Cleveland County reported that 4.3 percent of its population were unemployed.
Jefferson County’s unemployment rate for August was 5.1 percent.
According to the Associated Press, the number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits has fallen to the lowest level in 44 years, another sign that most workers enjoy job security. The Labor Department says claims for jobless aid has dropped by 22,000 to 222,000, fewest since March 1973. The less volatile four-week average slid by 9,500 to 248,250, lowest since late August.
Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. The low level suggests that employers are confident enough in the economy to hold onto workers. The unemployment rate last month hit a 16-year low 4.2 percent. The economic impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has faded in Texas and Florida. But the Labor Department says that Hurricanes Irma and Maria have disrupted the ability of people to file claims in Puerto Rico.