Home Sales – March 2014

By , May 6, 2014 3:05 PM

New home sales data that came out last week showed that the number of closings in March 2014 was unchanged from March 2013.  Although year-over-year growth was zero for the month, momentum is still positive.  A year ago, the March report gave the first indication that 2013 would be a year of strong sales growth, so it is not necessarily disappointing that March of this year had the same sales pace.  Moreover, wintery weather in January and February is likely to have contributed to a somewhat lower volume of closings in March than would otherwise be the case.  Even with the cold weather, cumulative sales for the first three months of the year were up nearly 6% over the previous year.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

The rising trend in home sales is more apparent in the following figure, which shows quarterly averages of  seasonally-adjusted data.  With the recurring seasonal patterns and monthly volatility removed, it is clear that first-quarter sales represent ongoing recovery of the residential real estate market.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association, seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association, seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement

 

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Metro Area Unemployment & Employment – March 2014

By , April 29, 2014 2:49 PM

Unemployment rates were lower in March than a year earlier in all of Arkansas’ metropolitan areas.  With the annual revisions now complete, estimates of metro unemployment rates for late 2012 and early 2013 are now generally reported to be 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points higher than previously published.  Consequently, the newly-published unemployment rates are, in some cases, not much lower than the rates initially reported a year ago.  But with the revised statistics, year-over-year declines in unemployment range from 0.3% in Fayetteville to 1.2% in Fort Smith and Memphis.  Over the same period, the statewide unemployment rate declined by 0.5%.

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

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

Smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates for March show monthly declines in seven of eight metro areas in Arkansas, with Fayetteville’s rate unchanged from February to March.  The largest monthly declines were in Hot Springs and Texarkana.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

The figure below shows time-series for the smoothed seasonally-adjusted estimates.  Unemployment rates have declined substantially in all of Arkansas’ metro areas over the past 3 to 6 months.  The largest declines were generally in metro areas with the highest unemployment rates.  Since September 2013, rates in Memphis, Hot Springs and Fort Smith declined by a full percentage point or more.  As of March, all metro areas except Memphis and Pine Bluff had unemployment rates below 7%.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased in four of eight Arkansas metro areas in March.  Employment declined for the month in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, and Hot Springs, and was unchanged in Pine Bluff.  The largest gain was in Texarkana, where a 1.5% increase offset losses from the previous 11 months.  Compared to a year ago, employment was up in six metro areas, with the largest increase in Jonesboro (+3.5%).  Compared to pre-recession levels, employment is higher in only two metro areas:  Fayetteville and Jonesboro.  Statewide, employment remains 1.5% below its level in December 2007.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

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Regional Price Parities and Income – New Data for 2012

By , April 24, 2014 4:53 PM

When the 2013 data on state personal income were recently released, we noted that per capita income in Arkansas was approximately 81% of the national average — essentially unchanged from the previous year.  But when it comes to purchasing power, incomes in Arkansas imply a higher standard of living than suggested by the 81% figure.

This morning, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released their first official set of statistics on Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas. (Experimental data had previously been released for years prior to 2012, see here and here).  The data confirmed that the cost of living is significantly lower in Arkansas than elsewhere in the U.S.  The overall price parity figure for Arkansas was 87.6, implying that prices were approximately 12½% lower than the nationwide average in 2012.   Adjusting incomes for this difference in the cost of living, Arkansas real incomes have a purchasing power that is 92.6% of the U.S. average.

As shown in the figure below, the 2012 statistics showed Arkansas to be the second-lowest cost state in the nation.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Regional price parities are generally lower in non-metropolitan areas than in metropolitan areas, and tend to be higher in the larger metro areas.  Differences in goods prices tend not to vary geographically as much as prices for services, and much of the regional variation in prices is driven by differences in rent costs.  The table below illustrates these patterns for Arkansas, breaking down prices of goods and services for metro- and non-metro areas of the state.   In the non-metro portions of the state, prices are generally 15% lower than the national average, led by rental costs that are just over half the U.S. mean.  The most expensive areas of the state are Memphis, Little Rock, and Fayetteville, each with an overall price parity exceeding 90.0.  Among metro areas, Jonesboro has the lowest cost of living.  In fact, today’s announcement from the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed Jonesboro to be fourth on the list of the most inexpensive metro areas in the nation.

Source:   Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

 

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Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – March 2014

By , April 18, 2014 1:03 PM

The unemployment rate in Arkansas dropped 2-tenths of 1 percent in March, falling to 6.9%. Today’s reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Workforce Services represented the seventh consecutive month in which the number of the state’s unemployed declined and the number employed increased.  Since August of last year, the number of unemployed has fallen by over 10,000 and the number of employed has increased by 16,000.  With the unemployment rate below 7% for the first time since January 2009, the unemployment rate is now only 2-tenths of a percent higher than the nationwide average.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
February payroll employment totals were revised downward by 2,200, but the March figures were up 1,200 from the revised level.  Since August 2013, payroll employment has increased by 17,000.  As shown in the table below, employment increased in every non-government service sector in March.  In the not-seasonally adjusted data reported by the Department of Workforce services, construction and manufacturing were also up for the month, but those gains were attributable to typical spring rebound effects.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Compared to a year ago, payroll employment is up 12,900, with increases in nearly every sector.  Total employment remains 17,800 below pre-recession levels.

# # #

*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.

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Metro Area Employment & Unemployment – February 2014

By , April 9, 2014 5:31 PM

New data on metro area employment and unemployment came out this morning, covering February 2014.  Although unemployment data included revised statistics for February 2013, the fully revised series were still not available (nor were the revised figures for smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates).  The full series of revised data are scheduled to be released April 18.

In the meantime, the new unemployment data show a similar pattern to the figures recently released for January.  Specifically, unemployment rates for February 2013 were revised upward for all of the state’s metro areas, with the revisions ranging from +0.2% to +0.4%.   But compared to these upwardly-revised rates from February 2013, unemployment rates in February 2014 were down in all 8 metro areas.  The largest year-over-year declines were recorded for Fort Smith (-1.4%) and Memphis (-1.1%).  Smaller declines were reported for Pine Bluff and Texarkana.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

From January to February, nonfarm payroll employment was up in four of the state’s metro areas (Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Memphis, and Texarkana), unchanged  in three (Fayetteville, Little Rock, and Pine Bluff), and declined in Fort Smith.  Compared to February 2013, payroll employment was higher in all areas except Pine Bluff and Texarkana.  The largest year-over-year percentage gains were for Hot Springs (+2.9%) and Jonesboro (+2.7%).  Fayetteville and Jonesboro remain the only metro areas in the state that have higher employment now than pre-recession levels.

MSA-NFPE-0214-tab

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2013:Q4 (Final)

By , April 3, 2014 10:52 AM

The final figures for Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS)  in December 2013 were slightly lower than anticipated.  As a result, the fourth quarter growth rates for ATS and the expanded version–Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG)–ended up being lower than we originally reported.

In the fourth quarter, ATS declined by 0.5%, following a 0.8% decline in the third quarter.  Including gasoline, sales declined by 0.9% in the fourth quarter.  Compared to the fourth quarter of 2013, ATS was up 1.8% and ATSIG was up 0.7%.  Over the same four-quarter period, inflation averaged around 1.0% (PCE price index) to 1.2% (CPI).  As a result, real (inflation adjusted) ATSIG declined over the course of the year and real ATS rose by less than 1%.

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

Newly-released data for the first two months of 2014 show continuing weakness in January, but a sharp increase in February.  Compared to February 2013, the preliminary figures show increases of 7.4% for ATS and 6.1% for ATSIG.

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 data is available here: Arkansas Taxable Sales 2013:Q4 (Excel file)

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Arkansas Home Sales Up Again in February

By , March 28, 2014 1:36 PM

The Arkansas Realtors® Association reported this morning that February home sales were up 12.6% from the previous year.  For the first two months of 2014, home sales are up 11.5%.  January and February are typically slow months of the year, but it is noteworthy that sales are up from 2013:  Last year turned out to be a fairly strong sales year overall, and the harsh winter weather so far in 2014 has probably meant delays for some home buyers.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

The table below shows sales for the largest 10 counties in the state.  Sales were up sharply in 6 of the 10, with modest declines in Lonoke, Washington and Pulaski counties.  Home sales in Sebastian County were down 13.5% from the February 2013; however, Sebastian County sales were particularly strong in Februrary 2013 (up 27% from the previous year).  As a matter of fact, each of the counties that showed sales declines in February of this year had particularly strong sales growth a year ago.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Looking at the two largest metro areas, the sales figures for individual counties average out to provide a more consistent view of sales growth.  Total home sales in Benton and Washington Counties were up 12.2% in February, and up 8.7% for the first two months of the year.  Combining the Central Arkansas counties of  Faulkner, Lonoke, Pulaski and Saline, February sales were up 11.8% from a year ago.  Cumulative sales for the first two months of the year were up 5.9% for the four Central Arkansas counties.

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Arkansas Employment & Unemployment – February 2014

By , March 28, 2014 10:55 AM

The February labor market reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed another month of positive employment growth for the state.  The headline statistic was a decline in the unemployment rate from 7.3% to 7.1%.   The national unemployment rate ticked upward by 0.1% in February, so the drop in Arkansas’ rate brought the gap between the state and national unemployment rates down to 0.4%.  The Arkansas unemployment rate has now fallen 0.6% in the past 6 months, and it is 0.4% lower than a year ago.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The underlying data from the household survey showed a continuation–and acceleration–of recent positive trends.  The number of unemployed declined by nearly 2,900, bringing the cumulative 6-month decline to more than 7,900.  The number of employed rose by more than 5,300, raising the 6-month increase to over 13,700.

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

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

Payroll Survey
The report on nonfarm payroll employment was similarly upbeat.  The number of jobs increased by 800 in February (seasonally adjusted), following an upward revision to the data from January.  After two years of stagnant job reports, payroll employment has increased by 18,000 over the past 6 months.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The table below breaks down the recent employment gains by sector.  The data show another strong month for goods-producing sectors, with Construction up by 800 and Manufacturing up by 700.  In the past 6 months we’ve seen a total increase of 6,600 in these two sectors alone.  Employment changes in service-providing sectors were mixed in February, with increases in Retail Trade and Education & Health Services offset by losses on Professional & Business Services, Financial Services, and Other Services.  Since the employment trough of February 2010 Arkansas has seen a cumulative increase of 40,200 jobs, but we remain 16,800 jobs below the employment levels that prevailed before the recession of 2008-09.

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.

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Arkansas Personal Income – 2013:Q4

By , March 25, 2014 3:11 PM

New data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) shows that Arkansas personal income rose by only 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared to a growth rate of 0.6% for the U.S.  Over the four quarters from 2012:Q4, growth was 0.7% in Arkansas and 1.4% for the U.S.  The year-over-year growth rates are distorted by the expiration of the payroll tax holiday at the end of 2012.  In the absence of that change in tax policy, growth would be nearly one full percentage point higher.  Since the official end-date of the recession (2009:Q2), personal income growth has averaged approximately 3.7% for both the state and the nation.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Personal income data are not adjusted for inflation. To account for changes in purchasing power over time, the chart below uses the price index for personal consumption expenditures to illustrate real (inflation adjusted) personal income. After adjusting for price changes, real personal income in Arkansas was -0.1% in the fourth quarter and -0.3% over the most recent four quarters. For the U.S., quarterly real income growth was 0.3%.  From the fourth quarter of 2012, U.S. real income growth was 0.4%.

Sources:  Bureau of Economic Analysis, author's calculations

Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis, author’s calculations

Annual Data for 2013
The news release from the BEA focused on annual averages for 2013 compared to the previous year.  On that basis, Arkansas income growth was 2.2%, compared to 2.6% for the U.S.  In terms of year-over-year growth, Arkansas ranked 35th among the 50 states.  The release noted that the national price index for personal consumption expenditures was 1.1% over the same period, implying real income growth rates of approximately 1.1% for Arkansas and 1.5% for the U.S.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The BEA news release also summarized data for per capita personal income.   Arkansas per capita income was $36,086, up 1.8% from 2012.  This figure represents approximately 81% of the national average.  Arkansas’ rank among the 50 states dropped from 45th to 46th.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

(Note:  If it were included in the state rankings, the District of Columbia would be ranked #1 with a per capita income of $74,513 — more than 67% above the national average.)

Earnings by Industry
Total earnings in Arkansas increased by 2.9% in 2013, compared to 3.4% nationwide.*  The table below summarizes earnings by industry.  Comparing Arkansas with the U.S. total, notable sectors of weakness included construction and manufacturing.  Earnings in several service-providing sectors in Arkansas exceeded nationwide growth rates; particularly in the categories of professional and business services.  Farm income in Arkansas also outpaced the national average.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

__________

*Total earnings includes wages and salary disbursements, supplements to wages and salaries, and proprietors’ income.  It does not include dividends, interest and rent; or personal current transfer receipts — nor does it adjust for employer and employee contributions for government social insurance.

 

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Metro Area Unemployment & Employment – January 2014

By , March 21, 2014 2:09 PM

The season of employment data revisions is almost over — but not quite.  A new report on metro area employment and unemployment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes some revised unemployment statistics for 2013, but the BLS data base will not be updated to reflect the full extent of data revisions until April 18.  The table below summarizes the revised unemployment data that were made available this morning.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

As we noted when the state unemployment revisions came out, the updated unemployment statistics included both good news and bad news.  The bad news was that the state unemployment rate had been higher in 2012 and 2013 than previously-published data had suggested.  The good news was that more recent data showed the unemployment rate trending downward.  The same is generally true for Arkansas metro areas.  Unemployment rates for January 2013 were revised upward by magnitudes ranging from 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points.   On the other hand, the new data for January 2014 show substantial declines in unemployment for some Arkansas metro areas.  Seven of the eight metro areas covering parts of Arkansas showed declines from a year earlier, with unemployment in Pine Bluff unchanged. Unemployment rates in Memphis and Fort Smith, in particular, have fallen dramatically since January 2013.

Payroll Data
In a post earlier this week, we reported on the revisions to payroll employment data for Arkansas metro areas for 2012 and 2013.  The table below shows the most recent updates to the monthly data–January 2014.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment increased in January in most of the state’s metro areas, with notable exceptions of Pine Bluff and Texarkana.  In both of those southern-tier metro areas, employment was down not only for the month, but down over the past year as well.  Pine Bluff and Texarkana are also the only metro areas in the state that have continued to shed jobs since the statewide employment trough of February 2010.  At the other extreme, Jonesboro and Fayetteville have both seen employment growth of nearly 10 percent since February 2010.  These two northern-most metro areas are also distinguished by the fact that they now have higher employment than at the onset of the recession.

 

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