As I write this, I am in the Washington, D.C. area visiting my son and daughter-in-law as well as several military friends. I also attended the promotion of a good friend. Most everywhere I have gone, folks have asked me whether I actually enjoy being in politics. My answer? Most of the time. I always love being able to help make some things better for people in our state. But I always feel I need to follow that with “but Arkansas politics are different than national politics.” Truthfully, I have repeatedly found that I have much more in common with the majority of my fellow House of Representative members than we do differences.

One thing we do have in common with the area where my son now lives is a concern for unemployment rates. Arkansas recently set a new record low for unemployment. The unemployment rate for July was 3.4%, breaking the previous record of 3.5% last month. There are 19,200 more jobs in our state than this time last year. How does that compare with the Washington, D.C. area? In June, Arlington County, VA had the lowest unemployment rate in the Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area at 2.0%. However, the nearby District of Columbia had an unemployment rate of 5.9%.

As we approach Labor Day, the story of our work force warrants taking a look at our state’s largest occupations, what occupations are in demand, and what occupations are paying the most. This information can be found annually through the Department of Workforce Services Arkansas Labor Market and Economic Report.

Retail salespersons were estimated to comprise the most employees in our state with 37,050 employed in 2017 with an average wage of $24,990. Combined food preparation and serving workers was the second largest occupation of 35,520 employed, earning an average wage of $19,620.

The report is divided into three categories: high skill, moderate skill and basic skill. The most in-demand high skill occupations in our state are operations managers, registered nurses, clergy, elementary school teachers (except special education), accountants and auditors.

The most in-demand moderate skill occupations are truck drivers, nursing assistants, bookkeeping and auditing clerks, teacher assistants, and licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.

The most in-demand basic skill occupations are food preparation and food serving workers, cashiers, retail sales, farmers and other agricultural managers.

Internists topped the occupations paying the most list with an annual salary of $247,280. Obstetricians and Gynecologists, with an average annual salary of $235,130 ranked second.

The entry wage estimate for employers of all sizes was $20,160 for 2017. The median wage estimate for employers with 250-499 employees was $32,317, while wages for experienced workers averaged $50,710 for employers in all size categories.

Our labor market is expected to continue to grow. You can find more detailed information on the labor market in various regions of the state by reading the report we have lined on our website: www.arkansashouse.org. You can also find what meetings are occurring during the month and get other legislative information on that site.

I hope you have a safe Labor Day holiday. I will be traveling around the district a good deal in the next few months. I hope to see you. Thank you for the privilege of serving as your representative.

Please let me know how I may be of assistance.

My email is leanne.burch@arkansashouse.org, or call me at (870) 460-0773.

You may also message me through Facebook @BurchforAR.

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