The Arkansas Economic Development Institute's 2018 Economic Report Card indicates that workforce participation rates, in Arkansas and the rest of the country, will continue to decline as baby boomers near retirement.
AEDI Senior Research Economist Greg Hamilton and AEDI Regional Economist Carlos Silva unveiled the report Tuesday at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business & Economic Development at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
The report highlighted a common problem employers in Arkansas and throughout the country are experiencing — a mismatch between available workers and the skilled workers that employers need.
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"Employers say they cannot find enough qualified workers, and, on the flip side of that … workers say they can't find a good job," Hamilton said.
The report shows the phenomenon playing out between two groups: the workforce — people eligible to work — and the labor force — people who are employed, part time or full time, or are actively seeking a job.
"Businesses say they can't find good qualified workers," Hamilton said. "You see that in that workforce participation negative growth."
All this comes amid a shift in the U.S. economy. Hamilton said the country is shifting from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, where jobs growth is in lower-paying hospitality and retail sectors.
There are bright spots in the report, which shows the Little Rock, Fayetteville and Jonesboro metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) experiencing real GDP growth. "Real" GDP growth is a figure that accounts for price fluctuations in products.
Silva said that, compared to the national economy and the economies for 65 other MSAs, the economies of Fayetteville and Jonesboro are performing above average. Little Rock performs at an average level. Pine Bluff and Texarkana are below average.