Pine Bluff’s unemployment rate from April to May jumped from 4.8 percent to 6.2 percent, according to the most recent data available from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services. Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment set a record low in June, dropping to 3.5 percent. That’s down from 3.6 percent in May.
The unemployment rate for the U.S. stood at 3.7% in June, up from 3.6% in May
At 6.2 percent, Pine Bluff had the highest unemployment rate in the state for May. El Dorado came in second with 5.8 percent, according to the ADWS.
The lowest unemployment rate for May was in Bentonville at 2 percent.
Pine Bluff’s total labor force in May stood at 16,871 workers, according to the ADWS. Of those workers, 15,829 were employed, while 1,042 did not have jobs. That’s up from 803 workers who reported joblessness in April.
In May 2018, Pine Bluff’s unemployment rate sat at 5.7 percent, up from 5.1 percent in April of last year.
One reason for the summer uptick is due to teachers being off for several months. While they get a paycheck year-round, most are on a 9-month contract.
“It happens to us every year in May,” said Lou Ann Nisbett, president and CEO for Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County.
Caleb McMahon, the former director of economic development at the Jefferson County Alliance and Chamber, said in a previous interview with The Commercial that Pine Bluff’s high unemployment rate isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“One thing is that we look at the number since 2011 when we first introduced the economic inventive tax,” he said.
“Unemployment was 11 percent then. It has been steadily going down. This is a good trend, but that being said, compared to other locations, we do have a higher unemployment rate. That higher rate actually makes us more attractive to industry because of our available workforce. Workforce is a key thing that industry looks for. There is a silver lining that helps us attract more business. It’s our job to get (the unemployment rate) as low as possible. We started out way behind everyone else.”
McMahon pointed to the coming casino/hotel, which is expected to bring more than 1,000 jobs to the area, as one bright spot in the city’s economic future.