Institute for Economic Advancement

Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2015:Q1

By , June 1, 2015 12:39 PM

In the first quarter of 2015, Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) declined by 1.2%.  Compared to the first quarter of 2014, ATSIG was up by only 0.6%.  However, much of the decline in overall consumer spending can be attributed to low gasoline prices.  Based on data from the Oil Price Information Service, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in Arkansas during the first quarter of the year was only $2.10, down 21.6% from the previous quarter and down 33.9% from a year earlier.  Moreover, the number of gallons of gasoline purchased dropped as well:  13.8% lower than a year earlier.  Total expenditures on gasoline were down 31.2% for the quarter (seasonally adjusted) and were down 38.7% from the year before.

With a smaller share of household budgets going toward purchases of gasoline, the non-gasoline component of Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) surged higher — up by 1.0% from the previous quarter and up 3.9% from the previous year.  The non-gasoline measure of taxable sales — based on sales tax collection data from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration — has increased by 20.4% since the trough of the recession (2009:Q2), reflecting an average annual growth rate of 3.3%.

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.

# # #

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 monthly and quarterly data is available here: Arkansas Taxable Sales 2015:Q1 (Excel file).

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – April 2015

By , May 27, 2015 10:58 AM

The unemployment rate for Arkansas ticked up by one-tenth of a percent in April to 5.7%.  According to recently revised historical data for the state’s  unemployment rate, it was the first uptick since January 2001.  It should not be too surprising to see a slight increase.  Now that the unemployment rate has fallen closer to sustainable long-run levels, it will become more common to see months where the unemployment rate remains unchanged or displays small (and statistically insignificant) ups and downs.

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

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

As shown in the figures below, this was the second consecutive month in which we’ve seen the number of unemployed increase — up approximately 1,500 in April after an increase of 900 in March.  On the other hand, it was also the 18th consecutive month in which the household survey indicated an increase in the number of employed Arkansans as well.  Since October 2013, the number of employed has increased by over 50,000.  The state’s labor force continues to expand — up by 4,000 in April and up by nearly 42,000 over the past 12 months.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Data from the payroll survey also indicated a strong month of job growth, with nonfarm payroll employment expanding by 6,400 jobs in April.   However, much of the strength in April reflected a bounce-back from weather-related weakness in March.  For the first four months of the year, net employment growth has totaled only 4,200.  Novertheless, following strong gains in the second half of 2014, Arkansas employment in April was up 24,600 from the previous year.

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

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

Reflecting the improvement in weather conditions, construction was the largest single contributor to the employment increase in April — up 2,400 for the month.  Education and Health Services also showed continued growth, with employment expanding by 1,700.  Increases were also notable in Retail Trade and Manufacturing.  Employment in Leisure and Hospitality services was down slightly for the month.  However, that sector continues to be one of the more rapidly-expanding areas of the economy, with a net gain of 15,600 jobs since the employment trough of February 2010.

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

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

 # # #

*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.

Arkansas House Prices – 2015:Q1

By , May 26, 2015 4:51 PM

The Federal Housing Finance Agency released new data on home prices this morning.  According to the FHFA’s “Expanded Data Indexes,” house prices in Arkansas declined slightly in the first quarter of 2015, falling by 0.4% from the fourth quarter of 2014.  Compared to a year ago, house prices in Arkansas were up 1.7%.  Nationwide, house prices were up 1.4% for the quarter, and were 5.8% higher than a year before.  Since hitting a trough in the second quarter of 2011, prices have increased by 11.5% in Arkansas and 22.2% nationwide.  The slower rate of appreciation in Arkansas reflects the fact that house prices declined be less then the rest of the nation during the price collapse of 2007-2011.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

The Expanded data indexes are compiled using data from actual sales prices gathered from FannieMae, FreddieMac, FHA and County Property Recorder sources.  For metropolitan areas, FHFA publishes a set of “All-Transactions Indexes” that are based on actual sales prices along with appraisal values from refinancing.  As shown in the chart and table below, home prices in the various metro areas of Arkansas have displayed widely differing patterns.  Fayetteville and Memphis experienced price declines from 2007 to 2011 that were consistent with nationwide averages, but prices in both of those metro areas have shown significant recovery since then.  At the other extreme, prices in Texarkana, Jonesboro, Fort Smith and Little Rock showed little downward movement during the nationwide decline, and have experienced net positive appreciation since 2007.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency.  Seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency. Seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

In the first quarter of 2015, home prices were higher in 5 of 8 metro areas, with declines in Fayetteville, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.  Pine Bluff was the only metro area to have experienced a decline compared to the first quarter of 2014.  Over the 5 years since 2010:Q1, house prices have fallen 6.4% in Pine Bluff and 0.7% in Hot Springs, but are up in the state’s other metro areas.  The highest rate of appreciation has been in Jonesboro, where prices are 8.2% higher than they were five 5 years go.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency.  Seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency. Seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

Arkansas Home Sales – March 2015

By , May 20, 2015 3:28 PM

New data from the Arkansas Realtors® Association show another strong month for Arkansas real estate markets, with home sales up 15.8% in March compared to the previous year.  Sales of 2,526 homes represented the highest March sales total since 2007.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Following year-over-year gains in both January and February, total home sales for the first quarter of the year were up by 10.2% compared to the first quarter of 2014.  As shown in the figure below, seasonally adjusted home sales are continuing to follow a steadily rising trend.  The pace of sales has now recovered to well-above the peaks in 2009 and 2010 that were artificially inflated by federal home-buyers’ tax credits.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association; seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association; seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement

Home sales were up among all of the largest counties in the state, with year-over-year gains particularly notable in Craighead County and Sebastian County.    The combined year-over-year increases for the Northwest Arkansas counties of Benton and Washington were 13.8% for March and 11.7% for the first quarter.   The combined totals for four Central Arkansas counties (Pulaski, Faulkner, Saline, and Lonoke) showed increases of 20.4% for the month and 8.5% for the quarter.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – March 2015

By , April 29, 2015 3:56 PM

The latest report on metro area employment and unemployment showed that Arkansas metro areas continue to show dramatic year-over-year declines in unemployment rates.  As shown in the table below, unemployment rates have fallen by more than a full percentage point over the past year in Jonesboro, Memphis, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.  The smallest decline in unemployment — in the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway metropolitan area — was 0.7%.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

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

The data are  now fully revised to reflect new estimation methodologies and data sources, as well as changes in the definitions of metropolitan areas.  However, smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates have not yet been updated, so meaningful month-to-month comparisons are not possible.

Payroll Employment
The previously-reported statewide payroll data showed a sharp decline for Arkansas in March.  Although the drop-off appears to be largely weather-related, payroll employment declines were also prevalent across the state’s metro areas.   Employment declined in 6 of the 8 metro areas that include parts of Arkansas, was unchanged in Texarkana, and was up only slightly in Little Rock.  Compared to the previous year, employment has increased in 6 metro areas but is lower in Fort Smith and Pine Bluff.

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

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

The chart below illustrates the divergent patterns of employment growth across the state’s metro areas.  Compared to the fourth quarter of 2007 (before the onset of the 2008-09 recession), employment is up nearly 12% in Jonesboro and 9.5% in Northwest Arkansas.  In the Little Rock metro area, employment has now slightly exceeded it’s pre-recession level.  Hot Springs, Memphis and Fort Smith have shown employment gains over the past three years, but remain below pre-recession peaks.  Employment has continued to follow a downward trend in both Pine Bluff and Texarkana.*  Payroll employment in Pine Bluff is down 13.2% compared to the fourth quarter of 2007.

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

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

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*Note:  Payroll data for Texarkana (which now include Little River County) are not presently being published by the BLS on a seasonally adjusted basis.  Payroll employment figures for Texarkana refer to data that have been seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – March 2014

By , April 21, 2015 10:43 AM

The latest employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Arkansas Department of Workforce services shows a slight weakening of labor market conditions during March.  Nevertheless, the trends remain positive and March appears to be a weather-related anomaly.

The unemployment rate in Arkansas remained at 5.6% after being revised upward from 5.5% to 5.6% for February.  Nationwide, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5%.   The number of unemployed Arkansans increased by 777, the first monthly increase since February 2011.  On the other hand, the number of employed was up by 3,890 and the labor force increased 4,667.  This was the 17th consecutive monthly increase in household employment, and the 11th consecutive month of labor force expansion.

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

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

Payroll Survey
Data from the Nonfarm payroll survey showed a contraction of jobs in March, with employment down 6,700 after a downward revision of 1,400 to the February total.  As shown in the table below, the bulk of the job losses were in construction.  According to the news release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, the decline in construction took place “as many projects were temporarily shut down due to weather conditions.”  Indeed the National Weather service reported that “It was a near record wet March, with a snowstorm to start the month and severe weather picking up toward the end.

In addition to construction, employment in Retail Trade was also down on a seasonally adjusted basis, reflecting a slower-than-usual start to the spring shopping season.  Notable monthly declines also appeared in the employment data for Professional & Business Services and Leisure & Hospitality Services.  Compared to a year ago, however, employment is up in every major sector except mining and logging, with a total employment increase of 22,200 (1.9%).

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

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

With the March decline, Arkansas payroll employment dropped back below it’s pre-recession level, after having slightly exceeded that level in February.

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

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

# # #

*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 Unemployment and Employment – February 2015

By , April 8, 2015 3:38 PM

New data on metro area employment and unemployment came out this morning.  As we reported last month, the metro area data are being revised significantly, taking into account new methodology and source information, as well as new definitions for many of the metro areas themselves.  Final revisions will not come out until April 21, so the current data remain “provisional.”

The news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “unemployment rates were lower in February than a year earlier in 366 of the 387 metropolitan areas.”  All eight of the metro areas that include parts of Arkansas were included in that total.  As shown in the table below, the unemployment rate has fallen by over a full percentage point in every metro area except Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers.  The largest decline has taken place in Pine Bluff — down from 9.6 a year ago to 7.9 in February 2015.

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

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

The calculation of smoothed seasonally-adjusted metro area unemployment rates has been discontinued until after the final data revisions are complete, so we have no official information on seasonally-adjusted rates.  Lacking that information, it is not possible to make meaningful month-to-month comparisons.

Payroll Data
Nonfarm payroll employment was up by 0.4% in Arkansas for the month of February, but the gains were not evenly dispersed across the state.  Four metro areas saw increases, while four saw decreases.  Compared to the previous February, however, seven of the state’s eight metro areas have seen increases in payroll employment, with only Pine Bluff continuing to see a downward drift.  Compared to the national employment trough of February 2010, only Pine Bluff and Texarkana have experienced net decreases.  Three metro areas now have higher levels of employment than before the 2008-09 recession, Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Little Rock.

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

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

(Note:  With the redefinition of the Texarkana MSA, seasonal adjustment factors have been deemed unreliable for now and no seasonally-adjusted data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The data for Texarkana in the table above have been seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement.)

Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2014:Q4

By , March 30, 2015 2:07 PM

With consumer purchasing power boosted by low gasoline prices, Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) surged in the fourth quarter of 2014, increasing by 2.7% from the previous quarter and up 4.5% from a year earlier.  With gasoline prices falling by nearly 18% from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, Arkansans were paying quite a bit less to fill their tanks.  The dollar-value of gasoline sales fell by 9.1 (seasonally adjusted).  Consequently, Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) increased more slowly than the ATS, increasing by 1.8% for the quarter and 3.4% from a year earlier.

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

Since the official end of the recession (2009:Q2), ATS has increased by 19.4% (a 3.3% annual rate) and ATSIG has increased by 20.4% (3.4% annual rate).  However, inflation–as measured by the price index for Personal Consumption Expenditures–has been associated with an increase in prices of about 9.4% over the same period.  Consequently, real taxable sales  have only been increasing at an annual rate of 1.6% (not including gasoline) and by 1.8% (including gasoline).  After this adjustment for the effects of inflation, real taxable sales are only now recovering to levels comparable to the pre-recession cyclical peak of 2008:Q2.

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 monthly and quarterly data is available here: Arkansas Taxable Sales 2014:Q4 (Excel file). Note:  With this release, seasonal factors for the monthly data have been revised.

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – February 2015

By , March 27, 2015 10:24 AM

Today’s report on state level employment and unemployment was another in a recent series of upbeat reports.  The headline was another downtick in the unemployment rate, from 5.6% to 5.5%.  Over the past 12 months, the unemployment rate in Arkansas has fallen by one full percentage point.  The national unemployment rate in February was also 5.5%.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The underlying components of the unemployment rate–derived from the household survey–continue to trend in positive directions.  The number of unemployed Arkansans was estimated to have declined by 858 from January to February, and has fallen by more than 10,000 over the past 12 months.  Meanwhile, the number of employed increased by 5,750 for the month and is up by nearly 43,000 since February of 2014.  The strong gains in employment have also driven labor force participation higher.  The labor force was up by 4,900 for the month.

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

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

Payroll Employment:
Total nonfarm payroll employment was up by 5,200 for the month (seasonally adjusted).  The gains were largely attributable to increases in two service sector categories:  Professional & Business Services (+2,100) and Leisure & Hospitality Services (+3,100).  Changes in other sectors were mixed.  Manufacturing employment showed a disappointing loss of jobs (-1,800), but construction employment was up for the fourth consecutive month.   From February 2014 to February 2015, total payroll employment has increased by 29,400 — a growth rate of 2.5%.

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

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

Since the employment trough of February 2010, total payroll employment has increased by 61,100 and is now above the pre-recession employment level by 3,700 jobs (0.3%).  By comparison, total employment for the U.S. in February was 2.0% above pre-recession levels.

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.

Arkansas Personal Income – 2014:Q4

By , March 25, 2015 2:44 PM

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its report on State Personal Income for the fourth quarter of 2014 and for calendar-year 2014.  The headline statistic was an national average growth rate of 3.9% from 2013 to 2014.  In Arkansas, the annual growth rate was 3.1%.  Per capita income in Arkansas rose by 2.9% to $37,751, while national per capita income rose 3.0% to $46,129.  Accordingly, Arkansas per capita income remained at 82% of the national average, with a ranking of 44th among the 50 states plus D.C.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Total earnings — which includes wages and salaries, employer supplements to wages and salaries, and proprietors income — rose by 1.9% in 2014, compared to a 4.1% increase nationally.  The table below shows the growth rates of total earnings broken down by industry.  Growth rates in Arkansas were below the national average in most sectors.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Quarterly Data
For the fourth quarter of 2014, Arkansas personal income increased 1.2% from the previous quarter, and was up 4.5% from the fourth quarter of 2013.  For the U.S., the comparable growth rates were 1.0% quarterly and 4.5% year-over-year. Since the recession of 2008-09, Personal income in Arkansas has been tracking fairly close to the national average.  Compared to the previous cyclical peak (2008:Q2), total income in Arkansas is up 20.6% (an average annual rate of 2.9%).  Since the trough of the recession (2010:Q1), Arkansas income has increased by 24.7% (a 3.5% annual rate).

Source:   Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The table below shows some of the key components of personal income growth in the fourth quarter.  Two components are notable.  First, growth of Proprietors’ incomes in Arkansas significantly exceeded the national average in both the quarterly and year-over-year data.  Second, another area of strong income growth in Arkansas — particularly in the year-over-year figures — was personal current transfer receipts.  This component was boosted by payments associated with Medicaid expansion (a.k.a. the “Private Option”).  Today’s report from the BEA noted that “Medicaid transfer receipts increased 13.6 percent in the states where coverage expanded in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act and 7.3 percent in the states where coverage did not expand.”   In Arkansas Medicaid transfers increased by 29.2% from 2013:Q4 to 2014:Q4.  That was ore than twice the national average rate of 13.3%.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

 

 

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