Job Numbers Down Among Most Large Arkansas Employers

by Robert Bell  on Monday, Mar. 15, 2010 12:00 am  

On last year's Arkansas Business list of the largest employers in the state, 16 of the top 35 entries for which numbers were confirmed reported the number of their employees had risen or stayed flat compared with 2008. Of those employers, 10 were in nongovernmental and non-health care-related industries.

(Click here to see the list of the largest employers in the state. A spreadsheet version is also available.)

This year, of the companies for which Arkansas Business was able to confirm figures, only five employers that are neither governmental nor health care-related posted increases compared with 2009.

The top five largest employers in the state all retained their places from last year, without a great deal of fluctuation in their numbers.

The government sector showed continued growth, with state employment up 2.2 percent and federal employment up 2.68 percent. That marks the second year in a row that the number of state jobs has grown by 2.2 percent.

As for whether the increases in state employment will continue, it's hard to tell, said Mike Stormes, administrator of the Office of Budget at the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration.

However, he said, "a real good measure would be the current budget that was just passed for the fiscal year '11. There was no big increase in numbers of positions," he said

"As a practical matter, just in terms of funding, you're going to see agencies have to prepare budgets that don't even include enough money to even fill all of the positions they may have authorized or were contemplating in the last biennial budgeting process."

The increase in state employment was at least partially a result of funding from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, often referred to as the federal stimulus act. Those 276 positions are not likely to be permanent, however, with many of them expiring in 2011 and 2012, Stormes said.

He noted that whenever the state hires for a position that is paid for with federal money, the person who accepts that job signs an agreement acknowledging that if the federal funding goes away, so too might the position.

Health care is another sector that has often been touted as a growing segment of the economy. But in Arkansas, it was mostly flat for the year. Several health care providers on the list appeared to have small losses, but some of them attributed this to attrition.

"The economy has had an effect, I think, on all health care in the area to the extent that it seems like patient volumes are down a little bit," said Steve Percival, vice president of human resources at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville. "We have not had to hire as many people as we have in the past."



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