Arkansas Home Sales

By , January 8, 2015 2:38 PM

This morning, the Arkansas Realtors® Association (ARA) announced that home sales in November were up 10.4% from the previous year.  As shown in the figure below, November is typically one of the slower months of the year for home sales.  At just over 2,000 units, however, sales in November 2014 were the highest for the month since November 2009 — the month in which the first Federal home-buyers’ tax credit expired.  The ARA total  for cumulative sales for the first 11 months of 2014 were 26,330, approximately 4.7% higher than same period a year earlier.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

To get a better sense of the trend in home sales, the figure below adjusts the home sales data for recurring seasonal patterns.  After seasonal adjustment, it is clear that the latest monthly home sales report extends a rising trend .  After the expiration of the second home-buyers’ tax credit in April 2010, Arkansas home sales were stagnant at a seasonally-adjusted pace of less than 2,000 homes per month.  Since mid-2012, we have seen steady improvement.  With only one month of the year yet to be reported, it is clear that 2014 will be the strongest year for home sales since before the recession.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association; Seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association; Seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement

Metro Area Unemployment & Employment – November 2014

By , December 31, 2014 8:00 AM

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on metro area unemployment and employment yesterday.  The report noted that unemployment rates in November were down compared to the previous year in 341 of the 372 metropolitan areas in the nation.  The eight metro areas that contain portions of Arkansas were all included in that total.  Not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates declined by more than a full percentage in each of the state’s metro areas over the past 12 months, with the largest decline being a 2.7 percent drop in Pine Bluff.

In the recent statewide unemployment report, Arkansas’ unemployment rate dropped by three-tenths of a percent in November (seasonally adjusted).  Comparable figures for the state’s metro areas do not uniformly reflect this dramatic decline.  From October to November, data from the Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates show declines of only one-tenth in Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro and Memphis.  Texarkana was down two-tenths and Pine Bluff was down three-tenths.  Unemployment rates in Fayetteville and Little Rock were unchanged.  Although the magnitude of unemployment rate declines were smaller for most metro areas than the statewide average, the underlying components were all generally encouraging.  The number of unemployed was down in all eight metro areas, and the number of employed was higher in all except Memphis.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 0.5% statewide in November, but the gains were not reflected evenly across the state’s metro areas.  In a fact, payroll employment was down in both Hot Springs, Memphis and Pine Bluff.  Employment in Texarkana was unchanged and Little Rock saw only a slight increase.  Compared to a year ago, employment has declined in Fort Smith and Pine Bluff, but has increased in the state’s other metro areas.  Only Jonesboro has surpassed the nationwide growth rate of 2.0%.  In fact, at 2.9%, Jonesboro is the only metro area in the state to be growing faster than the statewide average of 1.5%.  Compared to pre-recession levels of seven years go, employment has increased in Fayetteville and Jonesboro, but is still lagging behind in most other metro areas.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – November 2014

By , December 19, 2014 11:55 AM

The latest monthly report on state employment and unemployment adds to recent evidence of a dramatic improvement in labor market conditions in Arkansas.   The headline statistic showed that the unemployment rate dropped 3-tenths of a percent from 6.1% in October (revised) to 5.8% in November.  With that decline, the unemployment rate in Arkansas is now equal to the national unemployment rate.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The underlying details of household employment all pointed to improving conditions:  The number of unemployed Arkansans declined by nearly 2,200, following a decline of 1,900 in October.  The number of employed increased by 10,300 — the largest monthly increase on record (breaking the record increase of 9,400 for October).   As a result, the labor force has expanded dramatically over the past two months, erasing a large portion of the decline from earlier in the year.  In fact, this is the third consecutive month of strong gains in household employment and labor force participation.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Payroll Employment
The survey of employers also showed strong job growth in November.  Overall nonfarm payroll employment increased by 7,600 (seasonally adjusted).  As shown in the table below, increases were present in nearly all sectors of the economy (with the exception of Information Services, a relatively small sector).  Gains were particularly prominent in good-producing sectors:  Manufacturing employment was up 1,300 and Construction employment gained 1,400.  Gains in seasonally-adjusted Wholesale and Retail trade indicate that seasonal hiring for the holiday season are larger that would typically be expected.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Since the employment low-point of February 2010, total employment has increased by over 51,000 and now stands at only 5,700 less than pre-recession levels.  As noted previously, the annual benchmark revisions that will be released next year are likely to show a downward adjustment to the data.  After the expected revision, cumulative employment gains since February 2010 are expected to be approximately 41,800, still 15,200 below the pre-recession level.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

# # #

*Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, can be found hereTable-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

 

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – October 2014

By , December 9, 2014 4:25 PM

Unemployment rates declined in all of Arkansas’ metro areas in October.  On a year-over-year basis, the not-seasonally adjusted numbers showed declines ranging from 1.5% in Fayetteville to 2.9% in Pine Bluff.  The eight metro areas that include parts of Arkansas were among the 354 out of a total of 372 that saw declines from the previous year.  Smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates showed monthly declines in all eight metro areas as well.  Unemployment declined by 0.3% from September to October in Pine Bluff, and 0.2% in Fort Smith and Memphis.  Rates were down by 0.1% in the remaining metro areas.  Moreover, household employment and labor force figures showed monthly increases in all of Arkansas metro areas except Memphis.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll employment reports were more mixed.  Total nonfarm payrolls were down slightly in Fayetteville, Fort Smith and Texarkana, but were higher in Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Memphis and Pine Bluff.  Employment in Little Rock was unchanged.  The increase in Pine Bluff was particularly notable:  up 1.7% for the month.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

There are still only two metro areas in the state that have seen net employment gains compared to pre-recession levels (December 2007):  Fayetteville and Jonesboro.  The unchanged employment figure for Little Rock left the total unchanged since the pre-recession peak.  Three of the state’s metro areas have actually seen continued employment declines since the trough of February 2010:  Fort Smith, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.

Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2014:Q3

By , December 8, 2014 3:41 PM

A proxy for state retail spending, Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS), increased by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2013 (seasonally adjusted).  Compared to the previous year, ATS was up 1.0%.  Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) also rose by 0.2% for the quarter and was up 0.9% compared the third quarter of 2013.  The slightly slower year-over-year growth rate for ATSIG reflects the effect of lower gasoline prices on total household spending.  Since the trough of the recession, ATS has increased by 15.8% — an average annual percentage rate of 2.8%.  Meanwhile, ATSIG increased by 18.0% — or 3.2% annually.

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Institute for Economic Advancement

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Institute for Economic Advancement

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Institute for Economic Advancement

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Institute for Economic Advancement

Over the past four quarters, the price index for personal consumption expenditures has increased by about 1.5%.  Accordingly, the 1.0% (0.9%) rate of increase in ATS (ATSIG) translates to negative growth after adjusting for inflation.   As shown in the figure below, real inflation-adjusted growth in ATS and ATSIG has been considerably slower than their actual dollar amounts.  Both measures remain below their pre-recession levels, having increased by a total of 5.8% (ATS) and 7.8% (ATSIG) since the trough of the recession.

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Institute for Economic Advancement, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Institute for Economic Advancement, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

 # # #

Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) is calculated by the Institute for Economic Advancement to serve as a timely proxy for Arkansas retail sales. The series is derived from sales and use tax data, adjusting for the relative timing of tax collections and underlying sales, changes in tax laws, and seasonal patterns in the data.  Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) incorporates data on the state motor fuel tax and gasoline prices from the Oil Price Information Service.

A spreadsheet of the data is available here: Arkansas Taxable Sales 2014:Q3 (Excel file).

Arkansas House Prices – 2014:Q3

By , November 25, 2014 3:23 PM

The latest update on house prices from the Federal Housing Finance Agency came out this morning.  The most comprehensive of the FHFA indexes, the “Expanded-Data Indexes” show Arkansas house prices up 1.3% in the third quarter, compared to a 1.5% increase nationwide (seasonally adjusted).  Over the past four quarters, Arkansas house prices were up 3.4%, while U.S. prices rose by 6.0%.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

Readings on house prices in Arkansas metro areas were mixed.   From the second quarter to the third quarter, prices in Fayetteville, Hot Springs and Pine Bluff all increased sharply.  However, prices were down in the state’s other metro areas.  Over the past year, Fayetteville, Hot Springs and Memphis have shown the largest cumulative gains.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency; seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency; seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

The figure below displays a slightly longer-run view.  Relative to the nationwide house-price peak at the beginning of 2007, prices are higher or unchanged in most of the state’s metro areas.  The chart shows that the three metro areas that have shown the most rapid appreciation over the past year or two are the same areas that exhibited the largest declines during and after the recession.  For example, prices in Northwest Arkansas declined by nearly 20% from the beginning of 2007 until mid-2011, but have since recovered to the point of being only 9%  below the 2007 peak.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency; seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency; seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

Earnings, Prices, and the New Arkansas Minimum Wage

By , November 24, 2014 7:35 AM

A commentary in this week’s issue of Arkansas Business presents statistics on the Arkansas’ new minimum wage with comparisons to other states — adjusting for differences in cost-of-living and average earnings:  “Evaluating New Minimum Wage’s Effects.”  A spreadsheet of the raw data and calculations, along with a more complete interstate comparison of price- and wage-adjusted minimum wage rates, can be downloaded here: Minimum Wages by State.

PriceWage Table

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – October 2014

By , November 21, 2014 10:28 AM

The latest report on employment and unemployment in Arkansas shows the unemployment rate dropping two-tenths of a percent to 6.0% in October, the lowest level since July 2008.  More importantly, the underlying components of the unemployment rate are moving in a positive direction.  Earlier in the year, a falling unemployment rate was accompanied by a sharply contracting labor force.  The data for October shows a decline in the number of unemployed (-1,994), an increase in employment (+9,430), and an expanding labor force (+7,436).  The increase in labor force participation continues an uptrend that emerged in the September data.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Payroll Survey
Data collected from the state’s employers shows a small monthly increase in employment in October.  Nonfarm payroll employment expanded by 800 in October, and is up 14,200 from the previous year (seasonally adjusted).  Notable monthly increases were reported for Manufacturing, Transportation & Utilities, and Education & Health Services.  Employment in Wholesale and Retail trade contracted from September to October.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Since the employment trough of 2010, the official data show an increase in payroll employment of 44,700, still 12,300 lower than before the 2008-09 recession.  As we reported last month, however, the payroll data for late 2013 are likely to be revised down by approximately 9,400 jobs when the annual benchmark revisions are released in early 2015.  Taking into account these expected revisions, Arkansas payroll employment has increased by approximately 35,300 since February 2010, and remains 21,700 below the level recorded in December 2007.

 # # #

*Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, can be found hereTable-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Local Area Personal Income – 2013

By , November 20, 2014 4:47 PM

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released new statistics on local area personal income this morning.  The new data for metro areas and counties show a pronounced slowdown in economic growth in 2013 compared to 2012, but the slowdown was not unique to Arkansas.  Nationwide, per capita personal income growth slowed from 4.4% in 2012 to 1.3% in 2013.   As shown in the table below, Fayetteville was the only metro area in Arkansas that grew faster than the national average in 2013.   Growth in three of Arkansas metro areas was negative in 2013, and with the exception of Northwest Arkansas none of the state’s metro areas experienced growth above 1%.  Revised figures for 2012 show that the slowdown in 2013 was particularly sharp in Arkansas, with all metro areas falling from above average growth in 2012.  Taking a somewhat longer view, two-year average growth rates for all of Arkansas’ metro areas except Texarkana exceeded the nationwide average.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The same pattern of sharp deceleration was evident in the county-level data as well.  Each of Arkansas’ 75 counties experienced a slowdown in growth between 2012 and 2013.  Individual county growth rates ranged from a high of 6.9% in Scott County to a low of -4.6% in Hempstead County.  Above-average growth was more common among individual counties than among metro areas:  34 of the state’s counties had growth rates that exceeded the national average.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Levels of per capita income continue to vary widely across the state.   In 2013, three of Arkansas’ counties had per capita personal income above the national average:  Pulaski, Union, and Arkansas counties.  At the other extreme, Sevier county had per capita income that was only 55.7% of the U.S. average.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – September 2014

By , October 29, 2014 3:49 PM

In September, unemployment rates edged down in five of Arkansas’ metro areas and were unchanged in the other three.  Smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates of unemployment were down 0.1 percentage point in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.  Rates were unchanged in Hot Springs, Jonesboro, and Memphis.  Since September of 2013, unemployment rates have fallen more than a full percentage in all of the state’s metro areas.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

While unemployment rates continue to trend downward, payroll employment growth rates are diverging among Arkansas metro areas.  In September, employment was down in Hot Springs and Memphis, was unchanged in Pine Bluff, and was up in the remaining MSAs.  The largest increases were in Jonesboro (+1.7%) and Fayetteville (+1.0%).  Over the past 12 months, employment has increased in every metro area except Pine Bluff.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

As show in the last column of the table above and in the chart below, the longer-run trends of payroll employment differ considerably among metro areas.  Fayetteville and Jonesboro continue to see employment growth well above the previous cyclical peak.  As of September, Little Rock joined the list of metro areas where employment exceeded pre-recession levels.  In the remaining metro areas, employment growth since December 2007 remains negative.  In Fort Smith, Pine Bluff and Texarkana, employment has fallen, on net, since the labor market recovery began in February 2010.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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