Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – March 2018

By , April 20, 2018 11:52 AM

Arkansas’ unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.8% in March.  The number of unemployed inched up by 549 and is now up 939 over the first three months of the year.  The number of employed declined for the sixth consecutive month, falling by 1,291 in March.  Over the past six months, this measure of employment is down by 5,741.  As a result of the declines in the number of employed, the labor force has also been trending downward in recent months, falling by 4,893 since September of last year.

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

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

Payroll Employment
In contrast to the household employment measure, nonfarm payroll employment increased by 2,600 in March (seasonally adjusted).  Moreover, the employment total for February was revised upward by 1,800.  Increases were reported for most sectors, including Construction and Manufacturing.  Slight declines were registered for Wholesale Trade and Information Services, but most other service-providing sectors increased from the previous month (with the exception of Other Services, which was down by 800 jobs).  Compared a a year ago, total employment is up by 4,500 — about 0.4%.

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

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

The payroll statistics are generally considered the more accurate of the two employment surveys, and household employment has shown some particularly unusual patterns over the past two years.  Accordingly, the declines registered in the household survey should not be taken as a signal of a significant employment contraction.  Nevertheless, the fact that both surveys are showing weakness compared to a year ago does seem to indicate at least a slowdown in employment growth.

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

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

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 *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 here:  Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – February 2018

By , April 4, 2018 1:12 PM

New data on employment and unemployment was released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  The BLS database for metro area unemployment rates and related measures is not yet updated to reflect annual data revisions, so we are limited to year-to-year comparisons of not seasonally adjusted figures.  As shown in the table below, unemployment rates in Arkansas metro areas have generally stabilized over the past year.  From February 2017 to February 2018, unemployment rates were unchanged statewide, as well as in Fayetteville and Fort Smith.  With the exception of Memphis, other MSAs that include parts of Arkansas showed year-to-year changes of only 0.1 to 0.2 percentage points.

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

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

Nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged or higher in most of Arkansas’ metro areas in February.  Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Pine Bluff each registered increases of 0.3%.  The only metro area to experience a monthly decline was a Little Rock.  Compared to February 2017, employment is up in all metro areas except Fort Smith.

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

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

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Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – February 2018

By , March 23, 2018 11:02 AM

After recent data revisions reduced estimated employment growth considerably for 2017, incoming figures for 2018 indicate a continuing trend of stagnant growth.  Household employment was down by 1,800 in February, following a January decline of 1,900.  The number of unemployed was essentially unchanged in February, but has been creeping upward for nearly a year.

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

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

As a result of the declines in employment so far in 2018, the Arkansas unemployment rate edged up 0.1 percentage point in February to 3.8%.  By itself, the uptick is not important (resulting from rounding the change from 3.746 in January to 3.752 in February) and is not even close to statistically significant.  In fact, although Arkansas’ unemployment rate remains lower than the national average of 4.1%, that difference is not statistically significant either.  Nevertheless, the important point is that Arkansas’ unemployment rate remains exceptionally low by historical standards.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment also registered a slight decline in February — down 500 jobs (seasonally adjusted). The January figure was revised downward by 400 jobs as well.  The data continue a trend of near zero growth:  Over the past 12 months, payroll employment is up by 2,500 jobs but most of that gain came in the increase from February to March of last year.  Since March 2017, the net increase in Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment has been only 100 jobs.

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

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

By sector, the February employment decline was the result of lower employment in Manufacturing, Wholesale Trade,  and Business & Professional Services.  Leisure & Hospitality Services and Other Services registered monthly gains.  Compared to a year ago, employment in Manufacturing and several service-providing sectors is up, while employment is lower in Retail Trade and Information Services, in particular.

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

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

Two Measures of Employment
The ongoing recent trend of zero employment growth is supported by both the household and payroll data.  As shown in the figure below, the post-revision trends in these two employment measures are suggesting similar stories.  Fairly rapid employment growth in 2014 through 2016 gave way to a slowdown — and more recently a slight downturn — in both series.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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 *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 here:  Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

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Arkansas Personal Income, 2017:Q4

By , March 22, 2018 3:07 PM

Total personal income in Arkansas increased by 1.1% in the fourth quarter of 2017, matching the pace of the national aggregate.  For the year, Arkansas income was up 3.2% in 2017 compared to 2016.  Arkansas annual income growth slightly exceeded the national average and ranked the 16th highest among the 50 states.

PI 2017 map

Overall, personal income growth in Arkansas continues to match the pace of the national total.  Since the previous cyclical peak (in 2008:Q2), total income has increased by 30.6% in Arkansas and by 30.9% nationwide.  Since the trough of the last recession (2010:Q1), the annual growth rates of income in Arkansas and the U.S. have both been 4.1%.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The breakdown by major components of income in the fourth quarter shows slightly slower wage and salary growth in Arkansas than in the rest of the nation, while proprietors’ income and dividends, interest, & rent grew at slightly higher rates.  In the annual averages, Arkansas growth exceeded the nation’s primarily due to farm income (which also shows through to a higher growth rate of total proprietors’ income).

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The breakdown of earnings growth by industry shows a sectoral growth pattern similar to that of the nation as a whole (with the exception of strong farm income in Arkansas).  Earning from mining fell faster in Arkansas, while the growth rates of earnings in manufacturing (both durable and nondurable goods) was higher.  Earnings in the information sector were down in Arkansas and the growth rate of transportation and warehousing earnings (an important component of Arkansas personal income) was well below the national average.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – January 2018 (and 2017 revisions)

By , March 16, 2018 4:33 PM

New and revised data on metro area employment and unemployment has been coming out in drips and drabs, with the latest information on January unemployment rates coming out this morning.  The news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics summarized the January unemployment rates, by pointing out “the unemployment rates were lower in January than a year earlier in 337 of the 388 metropolitan areas, higher in 39 areas, and unchanged in 12 areas.”  As shown in the table below, unemployment rates in six Arkansas metro areas were among those that experienced increases since January 2017.   Rates were lower in Memphis and Texarkana, while Pine Bluff was unchanged.

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

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

The not-seasonally adjusted data have only been partly revised, and the seasonally adjusted estimates for metro areas have not yet been updated.  The fully-revised data are scheduled to be available April 20, 2018.

Payroll Employment
Data on nonfarm payroll employment have been fully revised as of Monday’s release of the annual benchmark revisions.  The latest data, for January, showed monthly employment increases in Fort Smith, Jonesboro and Texarkana.  Little Rock and Pine Bluff saw monthly declines, while employment in Fayetteville, Hot Springs and Memphis was unchanged.  Over the most recent 12 months, employment has increased in Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Little Rock and Memphis.  Year-over-year declines were recorded for Fort Smith, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.

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

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

Payroll Employment Revisions
As reported earlier this week, the nonfarm payroll employment figures for Arkansas statewide were revised downward for 2016 and 2017, with a net downward revision as of December 2017 of 9,600 jobs.  As shown in the table below, the data for most of Arkansas metro areas were revised upward, not downward.  Excluding Memphis (which includes only one county in Arkansas), the aggregate revision to the December 2017 metro area employment levels was an increase of 3,900 jobs.  The obvious conclusion is that the statewide negative revisions to the employment data were concentrated in the non-metropolitan counties of the state.

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

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

Moreover, the growth rates of metro area employment were revised upward in many cases over the revision period (April 2016 – December 2017).  The two-year growth rates in the table show upward revisions for the relatively rapidly growing metro areas of Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Little Rock.  Employment growth in Memphis was also revised higher.  The revision for Pine Bluff showed a slightly slower rate of contraction than indicated by previously reported data.  The previously-published and revised paths of metro are employment are illustrated in a series of charts below.

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

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

 

 

 

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Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – January 2018 (and 2017 revisions)

By , March 12, 2018 1:47 PM

New data on state-level employment and unemployment were released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning.  As we previously reported, revised statistics from the household survey had smoothed some of the ups and downs we saw in the original 2017 data.  In particular, strong growth early in the year and sharp declines later in the year were largely revised away, leaving a modest growth trend followed by a slowdown.  The new figures for January 2018 fit well into that revised picture.  The number of employed Arkansans declined by 1,521 in January — the fourth consecutive monthly decline.  Meanwhile, the number of unemployed was up by 396.  Monthly changes in the number of unemployed have had some ups and downs over the past year, but overall the trend has been for higher unemployment figures:  Since January 2017, the number of unemployed has risen by 1,156.

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

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

In terms of the unemployment rate, the revised figures showed that Arkansas’ rate has been stable at 3.7% for most of the last year (dipping briefly to 3.6% in early 2017).  Arkansas’ unemployment rate remained at 3.7% in January 2018 and remains slightly lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.1%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment – REVISIONS
Today’s release included the annual benchmark revisions for state-level nonfarm payroll employment.  As shown in the figure below, the pattern of revisions is similar to what we saw in the household survey:  Much of the strong growth originally reported during the first half of 2017 was revised downward, but some of the weakness reported toward the end of the year was also mitigated by the revisions.  For the period December 2017 through December 2017, job growth was originally reported to be 11,300 jobs (0.9%), while the revised figures show net growth of only 6,100 jobs (0.5%).

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

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

The revisions to the payroll data represent the annual benchmark process, which incorporates more accurate source data from April 2016 forward. Seasonal adjustment factors were revised back to the the beginning of January 2013.  Although the bulk of the revisions affect levels of employment for 2017, the figure for total nonfarm payroll employment illustrates that 2016 employment levels were also affected.  The following table reports the magnitude of revisions by sector — as of December 2017 — along with previously-reported and revised two-year growth rates for the major categories of total payroll employment.

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

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

Payroll Employment – January 2018
Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1,300 in January and was up 5,600 from a year earlier (revised, seasonally adjusted data).  The not-seasonally adjusted data reported in the news release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services showed a decline of 22,000 jobs from December 2017 to January 2018, reflecting the substantial seasonal employment reduction that takes place after the end-of-year holiday season.  After adjustment for this predictable pattern, the seasonally adjusted figures show mixed changes.  Monthly declines tended to be in line with lower trends in some sectors, including Mining & Logging, Construction, Retail Trade, Transportation & Utilities, Information Services, and Leisure & Hospitality Services.  In each of those “supersectors,” employment declined not only over the month of January, but also on net over the previous year.  The strongest growth sectors continue to be Professional & Business Services and Education & Health Services.

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

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

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*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 here:  Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

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Arkansas Unemployment – 2017 Annual Averages and Revisions

By , February 27, 2018 4:27 PM

The Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning released annual totals and revised figures for state-level unemployment and related statistics.  The annual averages for 2017 show an unemployment rate of 3.7% for Arkansas, down from 3.9% in 2016.  Nationwide, the average unemployment rate declined from 4.9% in 2016 to 4.4% in 2017.  Arkansas was one of 20 states with an unemployment rate that was significantly lower than the U.S. average.

This year’s revisions included updated data inputs and new population controls, as well as some other technical adjustments.  Not-seasonally adjusted data were revised from 2013 forward, while revisions of the seasonal adjustment factors were revised all the way back to 1976.  As shown in the figure below, the Arkansas unemployment rate was revised downward for most of 2016, with an upward revision to the 2017 estimates.  Both the previously-published and revised statistics show an unemployment rate of 3.7% at the end of 2017.

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

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

The underlying components of the household survey reveal that modifications to both the number of employed and to the number of unemployed Arkansans contributed to the revision of the unemployment rate:  Unemployment totals were revised lower in 2016 and higher in 2017, with revisions in the opposite direction applying to total household employment.  Looking back at 2013 and 2014, the household employment figures were revised higher in 2013.  Growth in 2014 was revised downward, offsetting net effect of the revisions to the 2013 data.

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

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

A prominent feature of the revisions is the smoothing-out of the surge in employment originally reported for April-July of 2017.  At the time, we considered this extraordinary employment growth to be anomalous, and had expected revisions to lower those originally-published estimates considerably.  While the revised figures do, in fact show much slower employment growth during 2017, upward revisions to the 2016 statistics largely offset the impact on recent employment totals.  In fact, as shown in the figure below, employment growth that was originally reported to be slightly negative during most of 2016 now appears to be consistently positive.  In addition to smoothing-out the anomalous surge in employment mid-2017, the revisions also modify employment changes at the end of the year:  Originally reported as large declines in employment, the revised monthly figures for the final three months of 2017 show approximately zero growth.

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

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

The combined effect of revisions to employment and unemployment shows through to labor force totals.  In particular, Arkansas’ labor force participation rate shows a smaller decline than originally reported for 2013, and eliminates some of the ups-and-downs from subsequent years.  After revision, the labor force participation rate appears to have been hovering near 58% for the past two years — about 5 percentage points lower than the national average.

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

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

 

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Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2017:Q4

By , February 13, 2018 1:40 PM

Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) surged by 4.9% in the fourth quarter, following particularly weak third quarter in which ATS had declined by 2.3%.  Gasoline prices rose to an average of $2.24 in the fourth quarter, up from $2.17 in the third quarter.  As a result, spending on gasoline is estimated to have increased by 12.7% in the fourth quarter (seasonally adjusted) and our broader measure of consumer spending — Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) — increased 5.3%.

Sources: Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

Sources: Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

The fourth quarter increase mitigates concern about weakness in sales growth during the third quarter.  Compared to the fourth quarter of 2016, ATS and ATSIG were up 5.0% and 5.4%, respectively.  Inflation, as measured by the price index for personal consumption expenditures (BEA), registered 1.7% from 2016:Q4 to 2017:Q4, so the increases in taxable sales represent real, inflation adjusted gains of well over 3%.  Over the longer term, from 2009:Q2 through 2017:Q4, ATS and ATSIG have increased at annual rates of just over 3%, which implies real, inflation-adjusted growth of around 1.6%.

Sources: Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

Sources: Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

The combined taxable sales figures for November and December provide some insight into the strength of the most recent holiday shopping season.  As illustrated below, ATS in November and December rose 7.2% from the previous year, the largest increase in over a decade.  For the same period, U.S. Retail Sales expanded 4.8%.

Sources: Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, U.S. Census Bureau

Sources: Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, U.S. Census Bureau

The 7.2% growth figure is likely to overstate the actual increase in holiday spending since online retailer Amazon was not remitting sales tax receipts in 2016 but was doing so in 2017.  Because information on any specific taxpayer is confidential, we cannot quantify the magnitude of this “Amazon effect.”  According to officials at the Department of Finance and Administration, however, the impact has not been particularly notable (See Arkansas Business article).   One reason for the muted impact of the Amazon effect is that the company is remitting taxes only for its direct sales, and not for third-party vendors who sell products through the Amazon marketplace.  Given the strength of the increase in 2017 holiday sales, and the stated minimal effect of Amazon’s sales tax submissions, it does seem clear that Arkansas retailers experienced a healthy increase in sales compared to the 2016 holiday shopping season.

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Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) is calculated by the Arkansas Economic Development Institute 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 2017:Q4 (Excel file).

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – December 2017

By , February 6, 2018 3:39 PM

The (preliminary) end-of-year numbers are in for metropolitan employment and unemployment, with Arkansas’ metro areas showing mixed performance for the year.  From December 2016 through December 2017, unemployment rates declined in six of Arkansas metro areas.  The rate in Northwest Arkansas was unchanged at the very low level of 2.7%, while Little Rock’s unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.4%.

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

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

Over the first half of the year, unemployment rates trended down in all of Arkansas’ metro areas (seasonally adjusted).  From July through December the pattern was mixed: Rates edged up in Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Little Rock, and Pine Bluff.   By the end of the year, over two percentage points separated the highest unemployment rate in the state (Pine Bluff at 5.1%) from the lowest (Fayetteville at 2.8%).

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

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment ended the year with monthly declines in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, and Memphis.  Little Rock was the only metro area in the state to experience a monthly increase.  Compared to a year earlier, five metro areas saw expanded employment, with gains ranging from 0.3% in Memphis to 2.4% in Fayetteville.  Employment in four of the eight remains below pre-recession levels of ten years ago.  Two metro areas, Pine Bluff and Texarkana, have yet to recover to the levels of employment that prevailed at the end of the great recession.

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

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

Tracing the path of employment over the past 10 years, the figure below illustrates the wide differences in job growth among Arkansas’ metro areas.  From the fourth quarter of 2007 through the fourth quarter of 2017, employment in Fayetteville increased by more than 22%, while employment in Pine Bluff decline by more than 14%.

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

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

Today’s report contains the final preliminary employment data for 2017, with both the household and payroll data scheduled to be revised in coming weeks.  Updated statisics on nonfarm payroll employment will be released for both states and metro areas on March 12, 2018.  Metro area data from the household survey, including unemployment rates, will be revised and updated by April 20, 2018.

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Arkansas Home Sales – 2017

By , February 1, 2018 4:32 PM

Earlier this week, the Arkansas Realtors® Association released sales figure for December 2017.  Total number of homes sold for the year was reported as 35,755, an increase of 5.1% from the previous year.  The 2017 sales increase followed four consecutive years of robust growth:  From 2012 through 2016, average annual sales growth was 9.0%.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

This week’s report showed that sales in December 2017 were actually lower than in 2016, a decline of 2.7%.  There was no data reported for November, but by interpolating year-to-date figures between the October and December reports, we can estimate that November 2017 sales were up 6.8% from the same month in 2017.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

For the fourth quarter as a whole, sales were up 6.9%.  Seasonal ups-and-downs sometimes make it difficult to observe the underlying trends and how recent observations fit into those trends, but the seasonally-adjusted chart below shows just how robust was the fourth quarter sales total.  The observation that the third quarter came in somewhat below trend suggests that some of the strength in the fourth quarter represented carry-over from the third quarter — i.e., home sales that were delayed in closing until after October 1.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association.  Seasonal adjustment by the Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association. Seasonal adjustment by the Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

Regardless of the monthly and quarterly ups and downs, the point remains that 2017 was another banner year for Arkansas home sales.  As we look ahead to 2018, there is some risk that rising interest rates may dampen the demand for house purchases, but there is little evidence of that having any immediate effect.  Our forecast for 2018 is that robust growth in home sales will continue, with a chance of weakening late in the  year or sometime in 2019.

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