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Government, health care jobs on rise since 2005.

JUST WHEN IT LOOKED LIKE Arkansas' manufacturing industry had bottomed out, incremental job losses continue to eat away at the sector's overall employment numbers.

There are currently some 197,200 Arkansans with manufacturing jobs, and that's about 2.5 percent less than in 2005 and about 16 percent less than five years ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This year's list of Arkansas' largest employers details some manufacturing companies' declines. Motor vehicle parts maker Superior Industries International Inc. of Van Nuys, Calif., only approximated its employment numbers, but this year's approximation of 2,300 was 200 workers fewer than last year's.

Swedish appliance manufacturer AB Hectrolux reported a marginal loss of jobs between this year and last year.

And a couple of manufacturers who fell just shy of making the list also reported fewer Arkansas workers this year compared to last. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. of Findlay, Ohio, reported 1,945 employees, a nearly 3 percent drop. And St. Louis' Emerson Electric Co. reported 1,890 Arkansas employees, almost 10 percent less than in 2005.

Still, another large loss of manufacturing jobs looms over the state at large and Fort Smith in particular. Home appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. of Benton Harbor, Mich., announced late last year that it planned to lay off 730 workers at is refrigerator plant in Fort Smith. The employees will lose their jobs in October, the company said, as a new plant in Mexico becomes operational.

Over the past three years Whirlpool had added nearly 800 employees to its Fort Smith plant, which currently employs 4,600.

Meanwhile, the state's health care industry continues to grow. Employment in the educational and health services sector grew by 2.6 percent from 2005 to 2006 and grew by nearly 16 percent over the past five years, according to BLS data.

A couple of notable exceptions to the trend appear on this year's list of largest employers. Triad Hospitals, for example, reported 21 percent fewer Arkansas employees, easily explainable because the Piano, Texas, company sold its 193 bed Central Arkansas Hospital in Searcy to its cross-city rival, the 245-bed White County Medical Center.

Also, Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock reported nearly 200 fewer jobs this year compared with 2005; although, the hospital offered only an approximate number this year compared with an exact figure the year before.

Another health care provider familiar to the list of largest employers, nursing home operator Beverly Enterprises Inc., is missing in action this year following its sale to Fillmore Capital Partners affiliate Pearl Senior Care. Company spokesman Blair Jackson said the new entity would decline to release employment numbers, citing a reorganization of the company and its various affiliates following the merger.

The list's largest year-over-year employment increase, an 18 percent leap from grocer Kroger Co., deserves an explanation; however, a Kroger spokeswoman had none. The company has not increased its number of Arkansas stores, 41, since this time last year. But it has improved its state market share from 11.64 percent to 12.26 percent between March 2005 and February 2006, according to grocery trade publication The Shelby Report.

CHIP TAULBEE

ctaulbee@abpg.com
Arkansas Employment by Industry

Industry 2006 2005 Change
 Employment * Employment

Government 207,900 201,010 3.32%
Manufacturing 197,200 202,100 -2.48%
Educational and
 Health Services 148,800 144,900 2.62%
Professional and
 Business Services 113,000 109,600 3.01%
Leisure and Hospitality 95,000 93,200 1.89%
Transportation
 and Utilities 65,200 64,700 0.77%
Construction 54,201 53,300 1.66%
Financial Activities 52,200 51,200 1.92%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
* Preliminary estimates
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Title Annotation:List Overview
Author:Taulbee, Chip
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Apr 3, 2006
Words:614
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