Willie Sutton, a notorious bank robber of the 1930s and '40s, denied ever saying he robbed banks "because that's where the money is." But "Sutton's Law" is not a bad thing to keep in mind when the subject is finding your next job.

The state of Arkansas keeps a close eye on the labor market, and not just the unemployment rate. The Division of Workforce Services publishes annual reports with the dry titles "Arkansas Statewide Short-Term Industry & Occupational Projections" and, for specific geographical regions within the state, "Workforce Development Areas Short-Term Industry and Occupational Projections." The most recent reports project 2022 as compared with 2020.

So what can the reports tell us about job opportunities statewide? Here are some key takeaways:

  • The total number of people working in Arkansas is expected to decline between 2020 and 2022 by about 11,000 — less than 1%. About 8,600 of those job losses are expected to be in food preparation and serving. Production jobs, which are occupations associated with manufacturing operations, are also on the wane, as are sales and related occupations.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on a number of industries. This is not, for instance, a great time to be looking for work in the motion picture or video industry, which was predicted to have fewer than half as many jobs in 2022 as the 1,212 jobs in that category statewide in 2020. Other decimated industries: promoters of performing arts, sports and similar events; travel arrangements; and drinking establishments.

  • Entry-level and low-skilled jobs are always more plentiful because of high turnover. Despite a shrinking number of jobs overall, there will still be 5,500 openings for fast food workers every year.

  • Among white-collar and professional jobs, openings are expected to be plentiful in the clergy (almost 1,300 openings annually), insurance agents (1,000), general and operations managers (1,700), wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives (2,500) and registered nurses (1,350). 

Statewide numbers don't paint the whole picture, of course. The regional report makes clear that almost all occupations are adding workers in northwest Arkansas (defined as Benton, Washington, Baxter, Boone, Carroll, Madison, Marion, Newton and Searcy counties). Even performing arts and spectator sports — one of the most distressed industries statewide — is expected to grow in northwest Arkansas. When turnover is included, Workforce Services expects almost 37,000 jobs to be filled in NWA annually. 

Meanwhile central Arkansas and Little Rock specifically are expected to have fewer workers in 2022 than in 2020. But there are still more job opportunities in central Arkansas than in NWA: The report predicts more than 16,000 job openings in central Arkansas (Faulkner, Lonoke, Monroe, Prairie, Saline and Pulaski counties, not including Little Rock) and more than 18,000 in Little Rock alone.


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