The State of Working Arkansas

Arkansas only thrives when workers thrive

In Arkansas, people, and not corporations, drive the economy. The labor and skills of Arkansas workers build prosperity in the state. Therefore, hardworking Arkansans deserve public spending and policies that support them. An inclusive economy is a smart economy, as the more workers who can fully participate, the more workers who contribute, and the better off we all are. When healthy, skilled, well-compensated workers prosper, communities throughout Arkansas thrive. 

But the way our state economy is growing, the average Arkansan has been working harder while falling further behind. This is because the economic, employment, and policy landscape for the Arkansas worker is not always empowering. Over the past forty years in our country, the productivity of typical employees has increased 3.7 times as fast as the corresponding worker pay. In 1965, CEOs were paid 21 times as much as a typical worker; now they are paid 344 times as much. 

Arkansans exercised their constitutional ballot initiative rights in 2018 by approving an increase in the state minimum wage. However, the current rate of $11 per hour just lifts a two-person family above the federal poverty level (FPL).

Further, growth in household income has not been experienced equally by all Arkansans. While the top 5% of earners in the state experienced a nearly 20% growth in income from 2012-2022, the bottom 20% saw a 12% decrease over the same period.

Finally, more than 50% of fast-food workers, personal care aides, cashiers, and cooks in Arkansas are “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed” (ALICE) workers, or those workers classified as the working poor or living in poverty. Many other Arkansas workers also struggle economically. 

The State of Working Arkansas report examines job-market and labor trends, socioeconomic factors, and policy decisions affecting the prosperity of Arkansas workers and their families. This investigation leads to policy recommendations, such as increasing access to quality childcare, providing tax credits for working families, and enacting stronger laws to protect workers. Future, smart policy choices will move our economy in the right direction and create opportunities for all Arkansans to thrive. 


You can download the PDF of the report below, or follow this link for the online version.