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Economist: AR Labor Force Decline Hard To Pinpoint

The number of employed Arkansans has fallen by an estimated 25,000 workers during the past year, part of a 13-month decline in the state’s workforce.

The number of employed Arkansans has fallen by an estimated 25,000 workers during the past year, part of a 13-month decline in the state’s workforce.

Why? Who knows.

According to statistics provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, in February 2013 there were 1,241,600 Arkansans employed in the civilian labor force compared to 1,266,600 in February 2012.

Dr. Michael Pakko, economist with UALR’s Institute for Economic Advancement, was a guest on Talk Business Arkansas this week and he says the trend has been predictable, but hard to pinpoint.

“It’s a combination of what some economists often point to as ‘discouraged workers syndrome.’ That as the economy fails to improve, workers stop looking for a job. And then they’re not counted as being part of the labor force,” Pakko said.

“It could also be retirement – early retirement or scheduled retirement – we are reaching that point where baby boomers are starting to leave the labor force,” he added. “In part, it is an expected trend – a demographic, predicted variable.”

Pakko said there’s no hard data in Arkansas to pinpoint why that drop-off is occurring.

“On the national level, you can look at some more details, but at the smaller levels like the state of Arkansas you’re going to have a lot of random variability in the statistics and it’s hard to drill down into what the numbers are saying,” he said.

He also noted that the decline of 25,000 workers taken from a monthly survey of employers differs from a separate payroll survey that shows new job gains.

That report shows that 30,000 new jobs have been added in Arkansas since the trough of the recession more than 3 years ago. You can watch his full interview by clicking here.

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