What’s good and bad at the same time? The employment situation in Arkansas.
What is happening: The percentage of Arkansas unemployed people looking for work has been on a downward trend over the past year, dropping to an all-time low of 3.1% in December. At the same time, small businesses looking to hire people don’t get the candidates they need.
Because matter: Small businesses make up over 99% of all businesses in the state, employing nearly half a million people. A dwindling workforce pool hinders their ability to grow and, in some cases, build customer loyalty.
- Recent research by Goldman Sachs highlights the continuing headwinds for entrepreneurs.
Context: Mervin Jebaraj, director of U of A’s Center for Business and Economic Research, cited three reasons for the conundrum:
- Many people have retired, at least while the pandemic was active, so they are not counted as looking for work.
- Another large group cannot find or afford childcare, so they have simply withdrawn from the job market.
- The demand for workers is on the rise due to a 30-40% increase in new businesses launched in 2020 and 2021.
By the numbers: The unemployment rate in the northwest corner of the state is between 1.4% (Benton County) and 1.6% (Madison County), the lowest rates in Arkansas.
- Eastern Arkansas has the highest rates with 5.2% (Chilcot County), 4.8% (Phillips County), and 4.2% (Mississippi County).
- The numbers are for November, the most recent data available.
What they are saying: Mike Rohrbach, owner of Flying Burrito and partner of the Bocca Italian restaurant and Kingfish bar in Fayetteville, said it could employ up to nine employees.
- “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” she told Axios as she was cooking for the lunch rush. “They just aren’t walking in the door.”
- He has been in the restaurant business for nearly 30 years and is careful not to work employees too hard lest they leave.
The bottom line: Jebaraj says the only real solution is to overcome the pandemic.
Of note: The Center for Business and Economic Research’s annual Business Forecast is Friday at 11:30 am. Contact the Registration Center.
Read More: An interactive version of the state unemployment map.
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