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Arkansas unemployment low a good sign for local businesses

Many in Arkansas noticed the difficulty in finding a job during the pandemic. Now, businesses in Arkansas are seeing a different trend: plenty of job openings.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Businesses in Arkansas are seeing the same trend: plenty of job openings.

That's good news for restaurants like Press Waffle in SoMa. They're not only opening the doors to customers, but also to people who are ready to clock in.

Like many Arkansans during the pandemic, finding a job has been anything but easy.

"Oh, it was so hard. I have been looking for a job almost like a year," Jammie Irvin, an employee at Press Waffle said.

She is a mother of a 2-year-old.

In March of 2020, she was laid off from her job. 

The question of how she would be able to provide for her family without income from a job is something that she wondered for a while. 

"It was kind of a little stressful because I just had my son a year prior to that, so it was like 'what will I do and where will I get some help from,'" Irvin said.

She is considering herself lucky. 

After applying for more than 100 jobs and hearing nothing back from any of them, she finally got a call from the owner of Press Waffle.

"More like an uplift. You know, [my] depression was gone, anxiety was gone, because I have a job now despite the pandemic that is going on," Irvin said. 

Rosemary Compton is the co-owner of the restaurant and officially opened to the doors to the public on Friday, Sept. 3. 

It is an opening that was set to happen a lot sooner, but the process was put on hold due to the pandemic. 

"We decided on our space here in SoMa in February of 2020 and then the world happened," Compton said. 

Construction picked back up and after making an official call to people who were looking for work, she said she has been able to hire 18 employees with no problem. 

That's a good sign for the state and according to the Secretary of Commerce, Mike Preston, other Arkansas businesses are seeing the same level of success when it comes to hiring more people. 

"While our numbers are heading in the right direction, we've hit lows in terms of those requesting unemployment assistance," Preston said. 

While he said the state is down to a 4.3% unemployment rate, that number represents a group of people that Irvin said she's happy to no longer be apart of. 

"If I could do a back flip then I would. But, it is exciting and I feel great," Irvin said.

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