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Surveying the state.

Unemployment Grows In June, But Arkansas Economists Say The Recovery Is On

A stabilization of consumer prices and the lowering of the Federal Reserve Board's discount rate should push Arkansas closer to a complete economic recovery, economists say.

John Shelnutt, a senior research specialist for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Arkansas Institute for Economic Advancement, says consumer sentiment is improving in most areas of the state.

"Purchases of homes, cars and other major items continue to indicate that consumers have ended their 'dance with doom' and now intend to capitalize on lower interest rates and stable prices," Shelnutt says.

He says there is a "lack of historical precedence for countercyclical growth favoring Arkansas over the national average. So far the evidence points to a pattern of faster response in Arkansas to lower interest rates and more sustained retail sales volume recovery."

Meanwhile, the state's unemployment rate jumped a full point in June from 7 percent to 8 percent. The increase was attributed to an influx of high school and college students seeking full- and part-time jobs.

The state's unemployment total is estimated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to have increased by 11,400 people from the month before. Still, non-agricultural employment rose from 965,600 in May to 969,400 in June, the third straight monthly increase.

The majority of those jobs came in the manufacturing sector, which produced 2,800 jobs in June. The state's manufacturing total rose from 238,400 in May to 241,200 last month.

The construction sector provided an additional 1,400 jobs, and the trade sector added 2,100 jobs.

The government sector showed the only decline with 5,500 jobs lost from the month before.

Looking Ahead

An AIEA forecast predicts that non-agricultural wage and salary employment will increase to 967,100 jobs by the end of the year. An increase of 0.6 percent to 973,300 jobs is expected in the first quarter of 1993 with the total rising to 994,100 by the end of the year.

"The current forecast projects a 6.6 percent drop in federal civilian employment due to the direct effects of |military~ base closure," says the AIEA forecast.

The report is referring to the closure of Blytheville's Eaker Air Force Base.

The national unemployment rate, which rose from 7.5 percent in May to 7.8 percent in June, saw dramatic increases in its youth categories.

Unemployment among those who are 16 to 19 years old grew to 23.6 percent in June, a 3.6 percent increase from May. While the minority youth unemployment rate dropped from 43.3 percent to 41.6 percent, the white youth unemployment rate rose from 16.7 percent to 20.6 percent.

On the state level, the youth unemployment rate rose 2 percent to 17.8 percent. Arkansas' minority youth unemployment rate increased from 27.3 percent in May to 30.3 percent in June, and the white youth unemployment rate rose from 13.8 percent to 15.6 percent during the same period.

The addition of 2,800 Arkansas manufacturing jobs in June, for a total of 241,200, was attributed to improvements in the food products, industrial machinery, apparel, electronic equipment and rubber and plastics industries.

"Arkansas is benefiting from good performance in niche markets during the recovery," Shelnutt says. "Clearly, the state has performance pacesetters in primary steel, poultry, paper and other wood-related industries.

"Many of the bright spots in the national recovery are well-represented in Arkansas. These sector leaders include construction-related supply industries and selected cyclical manufacturing industries."

Up And Down

State Employment Security Department figures for June showed the Fayetteville-Springdale metropolitan statistical area again having the state's lowest unemployment rate. The 4.3 percent rate was an increase of 0.6 percent over May.

The Pine Bluff MSA, which includes all of Jefferson County, had an 11.6 percent unemployment rate, up from 10.7 percent in May. The civilian labor force in the area totaled 38,925 in June, an increase of 1,650 jobs from the same period last year.

The Little Rock-North Little Rock MSA, which draws from Faulkner, Lonoke, Pulaski and Saline counties, saw its civilian labor force drop to 276,400 with 18,900 people on the unemployment rolls. The unemployment rate rose from 6.2 percent in May to 6.8 percent in June.

The Fort Smith MSA includes Crawford and Sebastian counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma's Sequoyah County. The unemployment rate there rose to 7.4 percent from 7 percent in May.
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Title Annotation:economic recovery in Arkansas
Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jul 27, 1992
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