Government, Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods Remain Atop Largest Arkansas Employers List

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Apr. 7, 2014 12:00 am  

Kathy Deck

(A correction has been made to this article. See end for details.)

The names of Arkansas’ largest employers remain mostly unchanged from a year ago — and every year.

State government is still atop the list with nearly 57,000 employees. That number is 477 fewer than a year ago, a decrease of less than 1 percent, but state government still employs about 8,000 more people in Arkansas than No. 2 Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville.

Arkansas’ unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 7.1 percent in February, according to the state’s Department of Workforce Services. The report said that in the past year, the state had gained 9,600 nonfarm payroll jobs, with increases in six of 10 major sectors.

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Kathy Deck, the director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas, said the modest job growth is a reflection of companies getting a bit more comfortable with the nation’s economic recovery. Deck said Arkansas’ unemployment numbers have stayed in a fairly narrow range since January 2012.

The hope is that some vibrancy in one sector will spur activity in all, but, so far, that hasn’t happened. That is why some companies are expanding or adding jobs while others are stagnant.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell reported an 18.5 percent increase in Arkansas-based jobs — from 3,269 to 3,874. David Mee, the company’s CFO, said J.B. Hunt focused a lot on two divisions — Integrated Capacity Solutions and Dedicated Contract Solutions — that help explain the job growth.

ICS is the company’s consulting service and Dedicated Contract Solutions is its private fleet outsourcing division, Mee said.

“That’s a significant hiring bucket,” Mee said. He called the growth a natural progression, saying, “It is a little bit of economic recovery and our focus on growth areas. We’re trying to grow nationally in both of those areas as well.”

Mee said he doesn’t feel like the economy is “out of the woods” but doesn’t expect a fallback, either.

“There are a lot of headwinds,” Deck said. “We haven’t seen that self-fulfilling cycle. We’re working our way toward the rising tide.”



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