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Regional Price Parities and Real Personal Income – 2015

By , June 23, 2017 10:07 AM

Arkansas is a relatively low income state, but it is also a state with a very low cost of living.  A dollar of income supports more real spending in Arkansas than it would in other, more expensive parts of the country.  New data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis documents the low cost of living in Arkansas using measures known as Regional Price Parities (RPPs).

RPPs measure the average price of goods and services in a geographic region compared to other regions in the U.S.  The figure below displays these measures for the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as of 2015.  The most expensive state in the nation is Hawaii, with prices that are 18.8% above the national average.  At the other extreme, the cost of living is only 86.2% of the national average in Mississippi, almost 14% below average.  Arkansas comes in at #3 on the list of states with the lowest cost of living, with a RPP of 87.4.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

While the cost of living is lower in all areas of the state, there are differences among the RPPs for regions within Arkansas.  As shown in the following table, the cost of living is highest in the Northwest and Central Arkansas metropolitan areas.  Nonmetropolitan areas of the state have a RPP of 83.9, implying a cost of living that is 16% below the U.S. average.  Among metro areas, Jonesboro is the least-expensive place to live.  In fact, Jonesboro’s RPP ranks it with the 7th lowest cost of living among all 382 of the nation’s metropolitan statistical areas.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The table also shows that differences in rents–or housing costs more generally–drive the overall differences in cost of living.  Goods prices tend to vary relatively little in different parts of the country.  The cost of services, which have a significant locally-produced content, vary more substantially.  Rents, on the other hand, are entirely local prices and therefore display the largest region-specific component.

Real Income and Local Inflation
By adjusting incomes in states and regions for differences in cost of living, RPPs can be used to calculate measures of purchasing power that provide real (price-adjusted) measures of income.  Typically the term “real income” is used to describe measures that are adjusted for inflation, or price differences over time.  In the context of RPPs, the adjustment covers differences over both time and space.

In the latest data, for instance, the RPP for Arkansas rose from 87.1 in 2014 to 87.4 in 2015.  Because the RPP for the entire U.S. is 100, by definition, this means that prices in Arkansas rose by 0.3 percentage points more than for the nation as a whole.  U.S. inflation was 0.3% in 2015 (as measured by the implicit price deflator for personal consumption expenditures) so Arkansas’ inflation rate was about double the national average for that year.  Actually after rounding to the nearest one-tenth of a percentage point, the inflation rate implied by Arkansas regional price deflator was 0.7%.  Other states’ regional price adjustments indicated inflation rates ranging from 1.2% in North Dakota to -0.7% in Delaware.

The figure below illustrates the varying path of price-level changes in Arkansas compared to the national average.  The U.S. the data are annual percent changes in the implicit price deflator for personal consumption expenditures.  For Arkansas, the data represent implicit price deflators based on the annual RPP statistics.  The two measures of “inflation” track fairly closely over time.  Over the five-year period, cumulative compounded price changes totaled 9.5% for the U.S. and 10.6% for Arkansas, implying that the cost of living in Arkansas was rising slightly toward the national average, on net.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The following table shows the growth rates of total personal income and real personal income in Arkansas, adjusted for differences in inflation and regional prices.  The table decomposes total income growth from 2014-15 into real and inflation components (the percent growth columns).  For Arkansas statewide, nominal (dollar) income rose 2.2%, with 1.4% attributable to real income growth and 0.7% to overall price increases (with the remainder due to rounding error).  The highest real income growth rate in the state was in the Fayetteville metro area, with 3.7% nominal income growth and 0% inflation.  Nominal income in Pine bluff increased only 0.1% in 2015 but prices declined by 0.5%, resulting in an increase in real income of 0.6%.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Real Per Capita Income
One commonly used measure of local economic well-being is per-capita personal income.  In dollar terms, per capita income in Arkansas was $38,257 in 2015, which amounted to just under 80% of the national average.  When we take into account the higher purchasing power of incomes in Arkansas, real per capita income is over 91% of the national average.  The table below shows how the adjustment for purchasing power changes the relative standards of living implied by per capita incomes in Arkansas’ metro areas.  The accompanying figure illustrates the differences among areas.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The highest per capita income in the state is in the Northwest Arkansas metro area.  In dollar terms, per capita income is 9% above the national average. After taking account of the fact that the cost of living is over 10% below the national average, per capita income in the Fayetteville metro area is 22% above the national average–in terms of purchasing power and standards of living.  The very low cost of living in Jonesboro has a particularly large impact on this real income comparison.  In dollar terms, per capita income in Jonesboro is only 70% of the U.S. average, but after adjusting for prices it amounts to 86%.

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Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – April 2017

By , May 19, 2017 4:47 PM

In the latest data on state employment and unemployment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate in Arkansas dropped by 0.1 percentage points to 3.5%, down from 3.6% in March.  Coming off of what was a record low unemployment last month, the latest unemployment rate sets a new all-time record low.  The U.S. unemployment rate also declined by 0.1 percentage points in April, declining to 4.4%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The number of unemployed declined by 911 and the number of employed increased by 7,693 in April.  The number of employed Arkansans had been slowly declining through most of 2016, but has been increasing for the first four months of 2017.  The labor force has also been expanding since January.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment was up 3,100 in April (seasonally adjusted).  Goods producing sectors added 1,200 jobs, with welcome increases in both Manufacturing and Construction.  Employment in service-providing sectors was up 1,900, with the largest gains coming in the Leisure and Hospitality Services.  Substantial increases were also reported in Transportation & Utilities, 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)

Compared to April of 2016, payroll employment is up 17,900, a gain of approximately 1.5%.

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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 hereTable-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

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Arkansas GDP – 2016:Q4

By , May 11, 2017 4:59 PM

New data on state-level GDP was published this morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  In the fourth quarter, Arkansas GDP  expanded at an annual rate of 0.5%, well below the nationwide average of 1.9%.  Arkansas growth rate ranked #45 of the 50 states.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

First-published estimates of GDP are based on incomplete data and are subject to significant future revision as more information becomes available, so the relatively low growth rate in the second quarter should not necessarily be cause for alarm.  However, today’s release also included revisions to data for 2013 to-date.  For Arkansas the revisions were negative and substantial:  The cumulative revision to the level of real GDP in 2016:Q3 amounted to 2.1%.  The newly revised data show recent growth rates of GDP to be in the range of less than 1%, compared to the 2%-3% range indicated by previously published data for 2016.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Annual Data
Today’s report also represents the first estimate of the state’s GDP for 2016 as a whole.  On an annual basis, the growth rate for Arkansas’ GDP was 0.8%, compared to 1.5% for the U.S.   Arkansas’ growth rate has fallen short of U.S. growth since 2013, with the gap particularly wide in 2015 (0.2% vs. 2.6%).

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Growth by Sector
The table below details growth by sector for Arkansas and the U.S.  The relative weakness of Arkansas’ growth is clearly concentrated in goods-producing sectors.  Low energy prices have depressed mining activity both nationwide and in Arkansas.  Durable goods manufacturing growth has been positive nationwide, but manufacturing growth for both durables and nondurables has been negative here in Arkansas.   Construction activity has also been relatively weak in Arkansas.

Service providing sectors in Arkansas have performed better, in both absolute and relative terms.  Although the one-quarter growth rates in Arkansas for 2016:Q4 are generally below national averages, year-over-year measures of service sector growth compare more favorably to national growth rates.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

 

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – March 2017

By , May 3, 2017 5:06 PM

New data on unemployment in Arkansas metro areas shows rates generally continuing to trend downward in March.  The exceptions were Pine Bluff and Texarkana, each of which had unemployment rates that were unchanged from February.  Elsewhere in the state, unemployment rates ticked downward by 0.1 or 0.2 percentage points.

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

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

Compared to twelve months earlier, rates are down approximately one-half of a percentage point in most of the state’s metro areas.  Unemployment in Memphis is the same as it was a year ago.  In Texarkana, the unemployment rate was on the decline through early 2016, but has edged up by one-half of a percentage point since March of 2016.  The figure below shows current rates and recent trends for unemployment rates in metro areas around the state.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Statewide nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged in March.  Monthly changes in the state’s metro areas were mixed.  Fort Smith and Jonesboro both saw declines of over 1 percent.  Employment in other metro areas was up slightly.  Over the past year, Pine Bluff, Texarkana and Fort Smith have seen zero or negative employment growth, while the other MSAs have seen employment expand.  The Fayetteville metro area continues to exhibit the strongest growth in the state.

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

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

Over the longer run, employment growth trends have diverged significantly during the current economic expansion.  Fayetteville and Jonesboro have grown steadily since the end of the great recession, but other metro areas have experienced slower growth.  Among the state’s other metro areas, only Little Rock and (as of this month) Memphis have surpassed pre-recession employment levels.

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 – March 2017

By , April 21, 2017 1:06 PM

The Arkansas unemployment rate set another new record low in March: 3.6%.  Having declined by 0.1 percentage point in each of the past four months, the state’s unemployment rate is now 0.9% lower than the national average.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

March’s decline in the unemployment rate was underpinned by an increase in the number of employed (+4,428) and a decline in the number unemployed (-1,240).  As a result, the participation rate was up for the second consecutive month, after declining steadily during 2016 and into the first part of this year.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged in March (seasonally adjusted).  Professional and Business Services continued to show strong growth, increasing by 1,200 jobs from February to March.  Education and Health Services showed an uncharacteristic decline for the month, but remains the single largest generator of job growth among the major super-sectors over the past 12 months.  Construction employment would ordinarily be expected to increase this time of year, but the warm early spring months was associated with earlier-than-expected increases.  As a result, with not-seasonally adjusted employment unchanged in the construction sector in March, the seasonally-adjusted figures register a decline of 800 jobs.  Manufacturing continues to show signs of improvement, having added a cumulative total of 3,100 jobs over the past year.

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

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

Compared to its pre-recession level (December 2007), Arkansas employment has increased by 33,100 jobs — about 2.8% growth.  Over the same period, employment nationally has increased by 5.3%.  That long-run comparison includes a period of relatively stagnant job growth in Arkansas — from around 2011 through 2013.  More recently, Arkansas employment has tracked the national growth rate more closely: Since the end of 2013, Arkansas employment has expanded by 5.7%, compared to 6.2% nationwide.

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 hereTable-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

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Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – February 2017

By , March 27, 2017 1:23 PM

The February state employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was a strong report for Arkansas overall.  The headline statistic was another decline in the state’s unemployment rate, down to 3.7%.  That represents a new record low for Arkansas’ unemployment rate, and is one full percentage point lower than the U.S. unemployment rate for February.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The underlying data from the household survey showed that the number of unemployed Arkansans declined by over one thousand, while the number employed rose nearly 2,500.  After drifting downward for the past 10 months, the labor force increased by 1,346 in February.

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

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

With the Arkansas unemployment rate hitting new record lows, it is useful to note that changes in labor force participation rates have complicated the interpretation of the unemployment statistics.  When the state’s unemployment rate was at a cyclical low of around 5% before the 2008-09 recession, the labor force participation rate in Arkansas was as high as 64%.  The participation rate has fallen sharply since that time and is currently near 58%.  That is, the fraction of the state’s population that is employed or even looking for work now has fallen by around 5-6% over the past decade.  If the workers how have dropped out of the labor force were to be considered officially “unemployed,” the current unemployment rate would be approximately 12%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment rose sharply in February, up by 6,100 (seasonally adjusted*).  The percentage increase for the month (o.5%) was the second-fastest growth rate in the nation (Montana and Nebraska saw increases of 0.6%).  Moreover, the employment total for January was revised upward by nearly 2,000 jobs.

Job growth was distributed across a wide range of sectors.  Goods-producing sectors, in particular, had a very strong month, with Mining and Logging, Construction and Manufacturing all posting gains.  On the service-providing side, Professional & Business Services and Education & Health Services continued to expand at a healthy pace.

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

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

Over the past 12 months, Arkansas payrolls have expanded by 16,300 — a growth pace of about 1.3%.  Over the same period, U.S. job growth has been around 1.6%.

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 Employment and Unemployment – January 2017

By , March 13, 2017 6:05 PM

Today’s state employment report featured a new record low unemployment rate for Arkansas, 3.8%.  Previously published figures had shown a 3.8% unemployment rate back in May of 2016, but recent data revisions eliminated that transitory dip in the data.  With the latest downtick, Arkansas’ unemployment rate in January was a full percentage point lower than the national average.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Underlying the unemployment rate itself, the number of unemployed dropped by 2,098 in January, while the number of employed increased by 823.  On net, therefore, the labor force contracted by 1,275 for the month.

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

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

Payroll Data
Nonfarm payroll employment declined by 4,300 in January.  In a reversal of typical patterns, goods-producing sectors added jobs in January, while service-providing sectors shed jobs during the month.  Construction and Manufacturing showed increases of 300 and 700 workers, respectively.  Meanwhile, employment in service-providing sectors was down by 5,300.  The declines were broadly based, with sectors losing jobs including Wholesale Trade, Transportation and Utilities, Information Services, Professional and Business Services, and Leisure and Hospitality.

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

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

Compared to a year ago, total employment is up by 11,300.  After data revisions (see below), growth in Manufacturing employment is looking more healthy, up by 2,300 over the past 12 months.  The bulk of job growth is taking place in key service sectors, Education and Health Services up 6,800, Professional and business services up 300, and Other Services up 2,100.

Revisions to Payroll Data
Today’s report included the annual benchmark revisions to the payroll data.  Data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), which is more complete and accurate than the monthly payroll employment statistics, had led us to expect a modest downward revision to total employment levels for the state.  However, the revised data revealed a small upward adjustment, amounting to about 800 jobs.  After revision, total payroll employment shows a growth rate of 1.2% from December 2015 through December 2016 (up from an original estimate of 0.4%).  Growth for the previous year was revised downward slightly from 2.3% to 2.0%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Revisions to the not-seasonally adjusted data covered the period March 2015 through December 2016.  Although there are small changes in the data for previous periods, these are only minor adjustments to seasonal factors.  Hence, the economically significant revisions are limited to the last two years.  The table below summarizes the impact of the revisions by sector, reporting on the change in the level of employment by sector as of December 2016, and comparing the pre-revision to post-revision growth rates for the two-year period December 2014 to December 2016.

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 hereTable-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

 

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Revised Unemployment Rates for Arkansas

By , February 28, 2017 4:24 PM

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has completed its annual review and revision of Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) for 2012-2016.   The data revisions incorporate updated population controls from the U.S. Census Bureau, revisions from other original data sources, and model re-estimation.

For Arkansas, the revisions were not surprising.   The originally published data showed a sharp increase in household employment over the first three months of 2016 — a reading about which we were very skeptical from the outset.   After revision, the unprecedented surge in employment and labor force was eliminated completely.  The new data show more robust growth in employment over most of 2015 and a much smaller upswing/downswing during 2016.  The new data also show that the number of unemployed was lower than previously reported for much of 2015, with a smaller decline in the number of unemployed during the first part of 2016.

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 revisions, Arkansas’ unemployment rate now shows a more rapid decline during 2015, followed by a more stable rate during 2016.  The original data had indicated that the Arkansas unemployment rate declined to as low as 3.8% in May 2016, drifting back up to 4.0% toward the end of the year.  After revision, the unemployment rate changed little over the year, starting at 4.1% then dropping to 4.0% for most of the rest of the year.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Today’s data revisions also included the official annual averages for unemployment.  The report noted at least three distinctions for Arkansas:

1.  From 2015 to 2016 (annual averages), the Arkansas unemployment rate declined 1.1%, from 5.1% to 4.0%.  Massachusetts and South Carolina were the only states to show a larger decline (-1.2%).

2.  For the year, Arkansas unemployment rate of 4.0% can be considered statistically significantly lower than the U.S. average of 4.9%.

3.  Arkansas was one of only 14 states to show a statistically significant increase in the employment-population ratio (up 0.7 percentage points, from 55.1% to 55.8%)

 

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Arkansas GDP – 2016:Q3

By , February 2, 2017 3:35 PM

The Bureau of Economic Analysis announced this morning that Arkansas real GDP grew at a 2.3% annual rate in the third quarter of 2016.  While this growth rate is roughly in line with prevailing trends, Arkansas’ growth lagged behind the nationwide rate of 3.5%, ranking #41 among the 50 states.

GDP-map-2016Q3

Over the past four quarters, Arkansas’ growth rate has averaged 2.1%, compared to 1.6% for the entire U.S.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

As shown in the table below, the patterns of growth rates across sectors are quite similar for Arkansas and the U.S.  Growth was relatively strong in Utilities, Finance and Insurance, and Administrative services.  Another sector to show encouraging growth was Durable Goods Manufacturing.  Arkansas’ agricultural output contracted in the third quarter; however, agricultural output shows substantial volatility from quarter to quarter.  Output in the mining sector was down across the board, reflecting continued weakness in oil and gas prices.

Source:  U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

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Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – December 2016

By , January 24, 2017 12:46 PM

As reported last Friday by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, Arkansas’ unemployment rate declined one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.9% in December.  This morning, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released additional details.  From the household survey data, the number of unemployed Arkansans declined by 1,345.  However, the number of employed declined by 5,357, the 7th consecutive monthly decline in employment.  It was also the 7th consecutive decline in the size of the active labor force (-6,702).

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

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 1,700 in December (seasonally adjusted).  Sectors showing monthly increases included Leisure and Hospitality services (+1,200), Wholesale Trade (+1,100) and Education and Health Services (+1,200).  Both Construction and Manufacturing showed losses for the month, and remain below the levels of December 2015.

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

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

Overall, the current data indicate that payroll employment rose 5,200 from December 2015 through December 2016, a gain of only 0.4%.  The 2016 year-over-year gain compares to an increase of 27,100 (2.3%) in 2015.  However, these totals will be revised in the next report from the BLS, scheduled to be released on March 13th.

Using available data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), we anticipate that the payroll employment totals will be revised downward for the period from September 2015 forward.  These estimates suggest that the employment increase in 2015 will be revised downward to show a gain of only 16,000 jobs (1.3%), while the change from December 2015 through December 2016 will end up indicating an increase of 6,800 jobs (0.6%).

Sources:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

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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 hereTable-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

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