Posted by Kim Reeve on April 16th 2014
High unemployment threatens our economic well-being and the ability of working families to not only make ends meet but to thrive and make better lives for their children. A new report by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) says Arkansas has maintained a high rate of unemployment since the recession, but there are common sense solutions to the problem.
According to the report, Fighting Unemployment Will Boost Arkansas's Economy, the unemployment rate for Arkansas is just under eight percent. But unemployment hits some groups harder. White Arkansans make up only six percent of the state's unemployed population, but 16 percent of African-Americans are jobless. This gap widened during the recent economic downturn.
AACF Executive Director Rich Huddleston says even people that do have jobs don't get the hours they need to fully support their families.
"A lot of workers in Arkansas are underemployed," says Huddleston. "Underemployed workers are those who have part-time jobs when they need full-time work or those who don't use all of their training for the job they have. Ideally, we have an economy where all Arkansans can find full-time employment that allows them the economic security to take care of their families and contribute to their local economy."
Kim Reeve, senior data analyst for AACF and the report's author, says a worker's education level has the greatest impact on how much he or she will earn in the future.
"Workers with higher education levels generally have higher earnings," Reeve says. "In order to ensure that all Arkansans have the opportunity to find jobs that pay for basic necessities, we need to improve access to higher education. Providing educational opportunities for kids of all ages, races, and geographies is the only way we can make sure our workforce is prepared for the jobs that are available."
The report offers other solutions to high unemployment rates in Arkansas:
- Invest more in pre-K education.
- Implement a state-level EITC (earned income tax credit) so working families keep more of their money.
- Make higher education more accessible.
- Rewarding work with a higher minimum wage.