Economist: Arkansas Job Picture Less Than Rosy

AUGUST 7, 2006 - Posted at 7:33 a.m. CDT

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - An economic forecaster says Arkansas' lack of tech-related jobs plus a shrinking manufacturing base has given the state an unemployment rate slightly higher than the national rate.

Jeff Collins is director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Sam W. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.  He says job growth in the state is presently dominated by lower paying jobs.

Collins noted that the Whirlpool plant in Fort Smith is cutting 200 jobs.  That, plus other recent layoffs and closures will take nearly 1,000 manufacturing jobs away.  Collins says service jobs are filling the gap, but they don't pay as well.

Collins says the state needs more educated workers, so they can perform jobs in tech-related fields.  Only one in five Arkansans has graduated from college.  And Collins says people with low educational levels are most vulnerable to losing their jobs.  Low-skill positions are the ones most easily moved to plants in countries with low wages.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)