Arkansas Division of Workforce Services (ADWS)

The Arkansas Division of Workforce Services (ADWS) is the state agency responsible for providing job-related services to unemployed state residents, such as coordinating training and educational opportunities, processing unemployment insurance claims, and connecting job seekers with employment opportunities in the state.

ADWS began life as the Arkansas Employment Security Division of the Arkansas Department of Labor (ADL). This division was created by Act 391 of 1941, in the wake of New Deal legislation such as the Social Security Act of 1935 and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act of 1939, which created a national system of unemployment benefits and encouraged states to do likewise. Act 391, noting that “economic insecurity due to unemployment is a serious menace to the health, morals, and welfare of the people of this State,” created a network of public employment offices to operate “in affiliation with a national system of employment services” as well as a fund for the disbursement of benefits to be paid out during periods of unemployment. A board of review was created to hear claims and appeals for unemployment benefits.

Subsequent acts modified the operative definitions of unemployment and who could receive benefits, as well as dealing with issues such as women in the workplace and work done on commission. However, the division underwent no great changes until Act 100 of 1991 revamped it, raising it to a department-level agency, the Arkansas Employment Security Department (AESD). Act 551 of 2007 created the Department of Workforce Services Training Trust Fund to be used for the operating expenses of the unemployment insurance program. The name of the agency was changed in 2007 to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, and in 2019, Act 910 changed the name to the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services when it was placed under the umbrella agency of the Arkansas Department of Commerce. Act 910 also transferred Arkansas Rehabilitation Services (ARS) and the Adult Education Section of the former Department of Career Education to the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services.

ADWS operates a number of programs, including various veterans’ services, the Arkansas Career Readiness Certification Program, the Arkansas Mature Worker Initiative, the Arkansas Workforce Centers, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), as well as the Migrant Farm Labor Center in Hope (Hempstead County), which provides services to seasonal farm workers. In addition, the agency maintains a registry of new hires in the state in order to locate non-custodial parents who owe child support and to prevent unemployment fraud. The registry also captures statistical information on the labor market and wages to be used by such interested parties as statisticians, economic developers, and researchers.

For additional information:
Arkansas Division of Workforce Services (ADWS). (accessed March 16, 2022).

Smith, David. “Fingers Cross as State Sees Jobless Rate Dip.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 19, 2009, pp. 1, 5A.

Tubbs, Charlotte. “Arkansas Welfare Seen as a Model.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 21, 2007, pp. 1B, 10B.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


No comments on this entry yet.