Manufacturing job cuts hurting several Arkansas cities

PINE BLUFF (KATV) - The numbers are staggering: more than 11 percent of Pine Bluff residents are unemployed. But it's far from the only Arkansas city that's struggling.

Experts say the numbers are more proof that the economy is changing - and so is the job market.

One resident who asked not to be identified -- we'll call him "Bob" -- said he was an employee at Horizon Poultry until they closed their doors in June. Some 200 people joined the unemployment lines that day.

Sadly, it's just the latest bad news in the downward spiral that is the Pine Bluff job market. Between April and May, the unemployment rate shot up from 10.3 percent to 11.2 percent in Pine Bluff.

The city is faring worse than most of Arkansas' major cities, and far worse than Northwest Arkansas' most populous towns.

  • Pine Bluff: 11.2 percent
  • West Memphis: 10.6 percent
  • Little Rock: 6.9 percent
  • Benton: 6.6 percent
  • Conway: 6.6 percent
  • Fayetteville: 5.9 percent
  • Rogers: 5.4 percent
  • Springdale: 5.4 percent
  • Bentonville: 4.9 percent

UALR Economist Dr. Michael Pakko said towns like Pine Bluff and West Memphis have felt the pinch worse than others because they rely more heavily on manufacturing. That also means their troubles may continue for years to come.

According to Dr. Pakko, "When a country goes through a recession, one of the things that happens is a restructuring takes place, and that's part of the story here."

Pakko said employers are manufacturing products more efficiently, so they need fewer workers. He claims service jobs are replacing manufacturing jobs all over the country.

"Bob" told us he was able to find work -- but he had to leave Pine Bluff to do it.

Overall, the state's unemployment rate came in at 7.3 percent for May - up from 6.9 percent in April.

Nationally, 195,000 jobs were created in June but the unemployment rate held steady at 7.6 percent because more people began looking for work. The government only counts someone as "unemployed" if they are both jobless and actively looking for work.

The Labor Department's report Friday pointed to a U.S. job market that's showing surprising resilience in the face of tax increases, federal spending cuts and economic weakness overseas. Employers have added an average 202,000 jobs for the past six months, up from 180,000 in the previous six.

Pakko warned these unemployment numbers are not seasonally adjusted but they are still a helpful tool.

The Associated Press contributed to portions of this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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