Unemployment declines in city, county

Pine Bluff’s unemployment rate fell from April to March but remained the second-highest among cities in the state, according to data released last week by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.

The unemployment rate was 10.1 percent in April compared to 11.2 percent in March. West Memphis had the highest rate for April at 11.1 percent. Springdale had the lowest April unemployment rate in the state with 4.2 percent.

Jefferson County as a whole clocked in with an 8.6 percent unemployment rate for April, which is down from a reading of 9.7 percent in March and 10.4 percent in February.

Ann Williams is the director of the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“I believe that these improving jobless numbers have to do in part with the way that the people of this city feel about themselves,” Williams said. “After the 175th anniversary celebration for Pine Bluff, there seems to be a new energy in Pine Bluff. Where there is community pride, people in turn feel better about themselves and their work ethic improves.”

Williams said that the county three-eighth cent economic development sales tax passed by voters in February 2011 is bearing fruit.

“With the tax in place, we are starting to look a lot more marketable,” Williams said. “It is really exciting and I believe that we have turned the corner.”

At the county level, there was a tie for lowest April rate between Benton and Carroll counties at 4.5 percent, while Chicot County had the highest April number with 10.1 percent.

Arkansas recorded a 6.6 percent unemployment rate for April, which is down from the March reading of 6.9 percent and the February rate of 7.1 percent.

The national April unemployment rate was 6.3 percent, which is down from 6.7 percent in March and February.