Arkansas Manufacturing Sees More Stability in 2012

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

Compared with 2011, the year 2012 was steadier for Arkansas manufacturing employment.

The 156,400 manufacturing jobs the state reported in December 2012 represented a 2 percent increase in manufacturing employment year over year versus December 2011’s 3 percent year-over-year drop.

“In 2012, we really saw manufacturing employment overall [stay] pretty darn stable,” said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “Things were relatively flat in the manufacturing sector.”

Such stability showed up as a trend among Arkansas’ largest manufacturers, which were surveyed for Arkansas Business’ annual list. More than half of the top 25 companies, ranked by number of employees, kept employee counts even with what they were one year ago or added modest numbers of employees. Not all of the top 25 provided data from February 2012 to compare with this month’s numbers.

(Click here for a PDF of the largest manufacturing companies in Arkansas. A spreadsheet is also available here.)

Four of the top five companies listed, including Tyson Foods, the state’s largest manufacturer by far, didn’t see changes in employment numbers.

Among the state’s manufacturers that saw growth was Lockheed Martin, the aerospace company that runs operations in Camden and Little Rock. Lockheed Martin didn’t make it into the top 25 on this year’s largest manufacturer’s list.

However, Lockheed reported an employee count of 750 this month. That was an increase of 150 employees, or 25 percent, since February 2012.

“We have seen modest growth in our employment levels at our Lockheed Martin Camden Operations facility over the past year,” said Lockheed spokeswoman Amanda Wiley in an email. “We continue to see modest increases in production on the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile and other military programs due to our U.S. and foreign military customers’ programmatic needs.”

However, Arkansas’ manufacturing sector isn’t what it used to be. In January 2000, the state had 240,200 manufacturing jobs, Deck said; in January 2010, just 157,600, so December 2012’s slight increase in jobs year over year wasn’t notable growth, she said.

Some companies did have good news, though.

Nucor-Yamato Steel Co. last June announced a $115 million plan to expand hot rolled sheet piling production at its steel mill in Blytheville.



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