Arkansas Economic Development Institute

Category: Metro Areas (MSAs)

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – August 2017

By , September 28, 2017 5:08 PM

Unemployment rates in Arkansas metro areas remain lower than a year earlier.  Wednesday’s news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that year-over-year changes in unemployment rates show declines in 323 of the nations 388 metropolitan areas, with all of Arkansas metros included in that total.  Recent monthly changes in unemployment rates have indicated a leveling-off, with most of the declines since August 2016 having taken place in the final months of 2016.

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

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

As previously reported, Arkansas’ statewide unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percentage point in August, with the increase attributable to the first notable increase in the number of unemployed Arkansans since 2011.  Unemployment rates in the state’s metro areas generally followed the same pattern.  An increase in the number of unemployed was reported each of Arkansas’ metro areas except Memphis.  The increases were large enough to push unemployment rates up in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Little Rock and Pine Bluff.

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 in Arkansas metro areas also followed the statewide pattern of a downturn in August, with payrolls declining in four of the state’s metro areas.  Declines were particularly pronounced in the rapidly growing northwest and northeast corners of the state, where recent employment growth trends have been the highest.  Payroll employment in Fayetteville was down 0.4% from July to August, but remained up 3.0% from a year earlier.  In Jonesboro, the monthly decline registered 0.5%, leaving employment 1.6% above its August 2016 level.

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

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

 

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – July 2017

By , September 1, 2017 4:06 PM

July data on employment and unemployment in metropolitan areas showed that unemployment rates were lower than a year earlier in all Metro areas covering parts of Arkansas.  Year-over-year changes in not-seasonally adjusted data range from -0.3 percentage points in Northwest Arkansas to -0.9 in Memphis and Pine Bluff.

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

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

Unemployment rates were unchanged or down slightly from June to July for most metro areas, although the Memphis metro area (which includes one county in Arkansas) saw an increase of 0.2 percentage points in July.  Rates were down in Fort Smith, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.

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 show wider variations among metro areas than do the data from the household survey. From June to July, payroll employment was unchanged in Little Rock, Memphis and Pine Bluff.  Employment was up Fayetteville, Hot Springs and Jonesboro, while Texarkana saw a decline.  From July 2016 to July 2017, Fayetteville, Hot Springs, Jonesboro and Memphis have experienced net growth, while the year-over-year changes were negative for Fort Smith, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.  Payroll employment in the Little Rock Metro area was unchanged from a year earlier.

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

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

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – June 2017

By , August 2, 2017 5:21 PM

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that unemployment rates were lower in June than a year earlier in 336 of the 388 metropolitan areas in the U.S.   All of Arkansas metro areas, except Texarkana, fell into that category.  With an unemployment rate that is up 0.3 percentage points since June 2016, Texarkana was one of 45 metro areas with a higher unemployment rate than a year ago.

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

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

From May to June, seasonally adjusted estimates indicated that unemployment rates were unchanged or up slightly in most of Arkansas metro areas.  Texarkana was the outlier in this comparison as well, with an unemployment rate decline of 0.1 percentage points.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Payroll Employment
From May to June, nonfarm payroll employment increased in Little Rock, Memphis and Fort Smith.  Payroll employment was down in Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Texarkana and Fayetteville.  Compared to a year earlier, Fayetteville remains the fastest-growing metro area, up 3.8%.  Jonesboro, Memphis and Hot Springs had employment totals that were also significantly higher than a year earlier.

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

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

The figure below illustrates the wide range of employment growth patterns over the past decade.  Only four of Arkansas metro areas have higher employment totals than at the start of the 2008-09 recession and only Fayetteville and Jonesboro have experienced significant growth.   Since the employment trough of 2010, most of Arkansas metro areas have experienced at least some positive growth, with the exception of Texarkana and Fort Smith (both essentially unchanged) and Pine Bluff (down nearly 11%).

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

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

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – May 2017

By , June 28, 2017 4:05 PM

In its latest news release on metro area employment and unemployment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that unemployment rates “were lower in May than a year earlier in 298 of the 388 metropolitan areas.”  Seven of the eight metro areas including parts of Arkansas fell into this category, with Texarkana being one of the nation’s 66 metro areas to have higher unemployment than a year earlier.

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

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

Seasonally adjusted estimates showed unemployment rates were generally unchanged or ticked downward in May, with the exceptions being Fort Smith and Memphis.  In Fort Smith, the rate ticked upward by 0.1 percentage point, while in Memphis the unemployment rate plummeted by 0.6 percentage points.

Source Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Source Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

The sharp decline in Memphis’ unemployment rate wasn’t associated with a commensurate increase in employment.  Rather, the data show a 13.5% decline in the number of unemployed, along with a decline in the number employed.  The reason for this sudden drop in labor force participation is not clear.

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 increased in five metro areas in May, declining in the other three.  Pine Bluff saw a one-month increase in employment of 1.2%, bringing the total back up to the same level as a year ago.  Little Rock’s employment ticked down 0.1% in May, and is little changed from a year ago.  The fastest-growing employment markets in the state continue to in the Northwest and Northeast corners of the state.  Employment in the Fayetteville MSA was up 0.8% in May, and is 4.3% higher than a year ago.  In Jonesboro the one-month increase was 0.2%, corresponding to a 2% increase from May 2016.  These two metro areas remain the only parts of Arkansas in which employment is significantly higher today than before the 2008-09 recession.

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

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

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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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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – April 2017

By , June 1, 2017 4:57 PM

Unemployment rates in Arkansas metro area continued their downward trend in April.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday that unemployment rates were lower than a year earlier in 322 of the nation’s 388 metropolitan areas.  Seven of Arkansas’ eight metro areas were included in this number.  In Texarkana, where the rate has been drifting upward  over the past twelve months, the unemployment rate was up 0.5% compared to last April.

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

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

On a seasonally adjusted basis, unemployment rates ticked downward in all Arkansas metro areas except Fort Smith, where it was unchanged.

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

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

The time series of seasonally adjusted unemployment rates shows convergence to three different levels cross the state.  Texarkana, Memphis and Pine Bluff are clustered around 5%, Fort Smith and Hot Springs are at or near 4.0%, and Little Rock, Jonesboro and Fayetteville are at 3% or lower.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Changes in nonfarm payroll employment were mixed around the state.  Only Jonesboro and Hot Springs showed increases from March to April, while Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Texarkana experienced employment declines.  Memphis was unchanged.  Compared to a year earlier, employment has declined in Fort Smith, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.  Fayetteville Jonesboro, Hot Springs and Memphis are up significantly, while Little Rock employment is essentially unchanged.

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

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

Compared to employment levels before the 2008-09 recession, employment statewide has expanded by 3.0%.  But that aggregate masks some huge differences among metro areas and regions.  Employment levels in Fayetteville and Jonesboro are up 21.1% and 15.9%, respectively, while payrolls in Pine Bluff are down 13.8%.

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Arkansas House Prices – 2017:Q2

By , May 24, 2017 5:40 PM

Arkansas house prices continue to trend upward, but at a slower pace than the national average.  According to the latest Expanded Data indexes from the Federal Housing Finance agency, Arkansas house prices rose 1.2% in the first quarter of 2017.  Over the most recent four quarters, Arkansas house prices were up 4.2%.  Over the same period, the national average for house prices increase by 6.7%

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)

The comparatively rapid pace of house prices nationwide reflects a rebound effects in the areas where prices declined the most during the market crash of 2007-11.  As shown in the following figure, that pattern holds true for the metro areas that cover parts of Arkansas.  House prices declined by over 12% in Memphis and by nearly 20% in Fayetteville from 2007 to 2011.  Those two metro areas have also seen the most rapid home-price appreciation since 2012.  Having experienced little depreciation during the period of housing price declines, Jonesboro and Texarkana have seen the highest rates of cumulative price increase since 2007.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).  Seasonal Adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advanacement

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Seasonal Adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement

In the most recent quarter, house prices were up in all of Arkansas’ metro areas except Little Rock, where prices are reported to have fallen by 1.0%.  Prices were down over the quarter in non-metropolitan regions of he state.  Over the past year, prices have risen most rapidly in Fort Smith and Fayetteville, and have risen most slowly in Pine Bluff and Little Rock.

Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Seasonal Adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement

Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Seasonal Adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement

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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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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – February 2017

By , April 5, 2017 4:58 PM

Data on unemployment rates for metropolitan areas are still in flux after recent revisions.  Today’s news release featured new information for February and revised figures for January, but the databases at the Bureau of Labor Statistics have not yet been updated with revised historical data.  We do know that the not-seasonally adjusted data shows unemployment rates lower than a year ago in six of Arkansas’ eight metro areas.  In Memphis and Texarkana unemployment rates are up slightly from February 2016 to February 2017.

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

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

Although the statewide unemployment rate ticked downward in February (to a new record low), seasonally adjusted estimates for Arkansas metro areas indicate slight increases in unemployment from January to February.  The unemployment rate in Memphis dropped by 0.4 percentage point and unemployment in Jonesboro was unchanged, but the other metro areas saw increases.  The seemingly anomalous juxtaposition might just be noise in the data or reflect idiosyncrasies of the seasonal adjustment process — stay tuned for future revisions.

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 was unchanged or higher in all of Arkansas’ metro areas.  The two metro areas that have been growing the fastest during the current economic expansion saw significant gains:  Jonesboro was up 0.9% from January to February and Fayetteville rose 0.8%.  Texarkana, where job growth has been rather weak in recent years, saw a full percentage point increase in employment.

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

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

Only three metro areas — Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Little Rock — have seen net increases in payroll employment since the pre-recession peak of December 2007.

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – January 2017

By , March 20, 2017 4:42 PM

The latest release on metro area unemployment rates included only selected data:  Revisions to historical data and seasonal factors are in progress and will be included in next month’s report.  For now, only the not-seasonally adjusted data are available.  As shown in the following figure, unemployment rates vary considerably across Arkansas metro areas.  Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Little Rock have unemployment rates below the statewide average of 4.2%, while the remaining metro areas have rates that are above the average.

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

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

From January 2016 to January 2017, unemployment rates declined sharply in most of the state’s metro areas, with the statewide rate declining by one-half of a percentage point.  Two exceptions were Memphis and Texarkana, which experienced increases in unemployment rates over the 12-month period.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Changes in nonfarm payroll employment were mixed across metro areas.  One-month changes ranged from Hot Springs (+1.6%) to Fort Smith (-1.4%).  Compared to January 2016, employment was higher in five of the eight metro areas, but was lower in Fort Smith and Texarkana.

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

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

The latest report included annual benchmark revisions to the payroll employment time series.  The underlying not-seasonally adjusted data were revised back to April of 2015, with seasonal factors revised back five years.  The revisions are summarized in the table below and displayed in the accompanying set of charts.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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