Local jobless numbers improve, officials report

The August unemployment figures released by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services Wednesday show an improvement both in Pine Bluff and in Jefferson County over the July numbers.

Pine Bluff recorded a 10.3 percent unemployment rate for August, which is the second-highest in the state, but also down from the July reading of 11.5 percent and the June number of 11.2 percent.

The unemployment rate for Jefferson County in August came in at nine percent, an improvement over the July reading of 10.1 percent and the June figure of 9.5 percent.

The highest unemployment rate in the state was registered in West Memphis with a 12 percent reading, which was down from the July rate of 12.7 percent and the June rate of 12.3 percent.

The municipality with the lowest unemployment rate in August was Springdale which garnered a reading of 4.7 percent, which was down from the July reading of 5.5 percent and the June reading of 5.2 percent.

Sherwood had the second-lowest August unemployment rate of 4.9 percent, which was down from the July number of 5.3 percent and the June figure of five percent.

The August unemployment rate of 7.3 percent for Arkansas matched the July reading while the United States rate for August declined to 8.3 percent from 8.1 percent in July.

Chris Hart, chair of the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce, sees the lower unemployment numbers as a sign of positive things to come.

“It is unbelievably encouraging to know that we are gaining momentum in employment levels as we head towards the traditionally busy Christmas season,” Hart said. “We hope to use these numbers and the inevitable pickup that Christmas will bring as a springboard into what will be a positive first quarter of 2013.”

Hart, who is also the vice president for personnel and community relations at Central Moloney Inc. in Pine Bluff, said that their business is doing well.

“We’re busy and that’s a good thing,” Hart said. “We’ve added a considerable amount of heads here to accommodate for natural growth and so we are feeling good right now.”

ADWS Communications Director Kimberly Friedman explained the forces at play behind the state’s unchanged August rate of 7.3 percent.

“Reductions in both employment and unemployment made for a smaller civilian labor force,” Friedman said in a press release. “This collective combination of decreases produced no change in the unemployment rate. There are still 11,000 fewer unemployed Arkansans than in August 2011.”