Economist Predicts Arkansas' Unemployment Rate will Drop

MARCH 31, 2004 - Posted at 4:36 p.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A university economist says Arkansas' unemployment rate should drop as the state replaces jobs lost in the manufacturing sector with service-sector jobs.  The University of Arkansas at Little Rock today released the quarterly forecast by John Shelnutt, senior research economist at the school's Institute of Economic Advancement.

In the report, Shelnutt says Arkansas, like the rest of the country, is slowly recovering from major manufacturing job losses.  His report said revised figures for 2003 show a job loss of two-tenths of one percent in the state last year.  Shelnutt predicted the state should see a gain of seven-tenths of one percent in jobs this year.  He said the state's unemployment rate should decline from 6.2 percent in 2003 to 5.3 percent.

He said no job gains are expected in the state's manufacturing base, with the increase coming in the service sector.  That includes such areas as retail sales, where pay can be lower than at manufacturing plants.

The extended outlook for Arkansas calls for a moderate pace of return to the growth that has characterized the state's economy over the past several years.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)