Unemployment Still A Concern For Many Rural Arkansas Counties
Many Arkansans remain unemployed even though the official unemployment rate for Arkansas declined from a high of 10% in April 2020 to 4.5% in February and 4.4% in March 2021.1 However, there were approximately 35,000 fewer people employed in the state in February 2021 compared to pre COVID-19 levels in February 2020.
Part of the reason why Arkansas has a low unemployment rate, even though fewer people were employed in February 2021 than pre COVID-19 levels, is because some workers dropped out of the labor force and are not counted as unemployed. Rural counties2 experienced somewhat larger declines in the labor force than urban counties between February 2020 and February 2021, declining a little over 2% in rural counties compared to a 1% decline in urban counties.
If the February 2021 county unemployment rates3 are adjusted for those dropping out of the labor force between February 2020 and February 2021, the unemployment rate for the 62 rural Arkansas counties jumps from 5.8% to 7.8%. Similarly, the unemployment rate for the 13 urban counties increases from 5% to 6%.
As seen in the map in Figure 1, seven rural counties had adjusted unemployment rates over 10%, including: Marion, Izard, Mississippi, St. Francis, Desha, Ashley and Chicot counties.
Another 32 rural counties and three urban counties had adjusted unemployment rates between 7.5% and 10%. Therefore, over 60% of Arkansas’ rural counties still had adjusted unemployment rates over 7.5% in February 2021.
Figure 1. Adjusted Unemployment Rates - February 2021
For more information about county employment and finances in Arkansas visit our local government website at www.uaex.uada.edu/localgov and view a copy of the 2021 Rural Profile of Arkansas at www.uaex.uada.edu/ruralprofile.
1 These are seasonally adjusted unemployment rates.
2 For a definition and identification of the 62 rural counties in Arkansas, see the 2021 Rural Profile of Arkansas at www.uaes.uada.edu/ruralprofile
3 The county unemployment rates are NOT seasonally adjusted.