Summary: A healthy state economy creates new jobs at rates greater than or equal to the U.S. average.  Public assistance is seen as short-term aid, not a multi-year entitlement.  Two metrics (employment growth, food stamp usage1) illustrate problems with the Arkansas economy since January 2007.


(October 2014) Arkansas payroll employment has declined, and the number of households and persons receiving food stamps has increased since 2007, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau data.


Arkansas Payroll Employment


Arkansas total nonfarm payroll employment was 1,201,200 in January 2007, BLS data2 show. Arkansas total employment was 1,194,000 in September 2014, a 0.6% decline. U.S. employment increased 1.3% in the same period.3


Arkansas Food Stamp Usage


Individuals and households turn to public assistance when jobs are not plentiful.  One public assistance program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),4 which dispensed $731,845,896 in Arkansas in FY 2013. Persons receiving food stamps in Arkansas increased from 379,768 (FY2007) to 504,621 (FY2013).5  Household participation grew from 158,087 (FY2007) to 224,454 (FY2013).6 Both trailed national growth rates.7



–Greg Kaza

1 National media including the McClatchy News Service and The N.Y. Times have reported on the growth in food stamp usage.

2 State and Metro Area Employment, Hours & Earnings, Current Employment Statistics. To access visit, and click “State and Local Employment” using the Subjects menu on the home page. Scroll down and click SAE Databases.  Click Top Picks and select Arkansas.  Choose “Arkansas, Total Nonfarm, Seasonally Adjusted.” Click “graph” and set the pull-down tab (2007)

3 Total U.S. payroll employment: 137,448,000 (January 2007) and 139,187,000 (August 2014).

4 The U.S. Department of Agriculture describes SNAP as “the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.”  Average monthly benefits are $121 per person and $272 per household. Eligibility requirements are posted at:

5 USDA, State SNAP Activity Reports, Arkansas Persons:  (FY2007) 379,768; (FY2008) 377,883; (FY2009) 411,153; (FY2010) 466,598; (FY2011) 486,451; (FY2012) 502,125; and (FY2013) 504,621.

6 USDA, State SNAP Activity Reports, Arkansas Households: (FY2007)158,087; (FY2008) 157,871; (FY2009) 172,602; (FY2010) 197,624; (FY2011) 210,670; (FY2012) 220,095; and (FY2013) 224,454.

7 Persons: Arkansas (32.9%) versus U.S. (80%); Households: Arkansas (42%) versus U.S. (96%).