Jobless rates show slight decline in state, county, city

Pine Bluff and Jefferson County are in sync with a statewide trend in which unemployment numbers have declined five consecutive months since a June 2011 spike.

In the latest figures announced by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, state unemployment was at 7.2 percent in November while the city and county fared at 11.1 and 9.5, down from respective October readings of 7.4, 11.3 and 10.3 percent.

Pine Bluff’s unemployment count jumped to 13.3 percent in June after an 11.9 May posting. The county’s unemployment rate elevated from 10.3 percent in May to 11.5 in June, while the state’s numbers went up from 7.9 to 8.6 in the same period.

“If we can recruit more jobs here with our economic devlopment sales tax, it’ll get even better,” Jefferson County Judge Mike Holcomb said Friday. “We can plant some seeds that may grow a lot bigger.”

Thursday, the tax board voted to use the tax incentives for the first time since it was approved in February. The board, the Economic Development Corp. of Jefferson County, voted to offer a biotech company up to $73,000 to locate in empty lab facilities at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.

Lou Ann Nesbitt, president of The Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County, echoed the judge.

“The job development tax will pay off for everyone,” she said. “Our manufacturing council had a recent job fair, and some industries are now looking at hiring.”