Institute for Economic Advancement

Category: Metro Areas (MSAs)

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – December 2016

By , February 1, 2017 3:47 PM

Unemployment rates in Arkansas metro areas were generally lower in December than in November.  Although the raw not-seasonally adjusted figures show increases in all eight metro areas that include parts of Arkansas, the end of year is typically associated with seasonal upticks in unemployment associated with academic breaks.  After seasonal adjustment, unemployment rates declined Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro and Pine Bluff.  Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates were unchanged in Hot Springs and Little Rock, while increasing slightly in Memphis and Texarkana.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Compared to year earlier, Decembers metro unemployment rates continued to show significant declines.  From December 2015 through December 2016, unemployment rates declined by 0.1% (Texarkana) to 1.2% (Pine Bluff).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm Payroll Employment in December was up 0.7% in Jonesboro and 0.4% in Fort Smith, but was lower in 5 of the state’s metro areas.  Compared to December 2015 employment was higher in most metro areas, with particularly large gains in Jonesboro.  Tow metro areas, Pine Bluff and Texarkana showed year-over-year declines in employment.  Those two metro areas also showed longer-term declines, with employment lower than the post-recession trough point of February 2010.  Five of the state’s eight metro areas have yet to reach pre-recession (December 2007) employment levels.  Eight years after the onset of the 2008-09 recession, only Little Rock, Fayetteville and Jonesboro have shown net gains.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

 

 

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – October 2016

By , December 1, 2016 12:05 PM

Differences in unemployment rates among Arkansas’ metropolitan areas generally narrowed slightly in October.  In the areas with the unemployment rates below the statewide average of 4.0% (Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Little Rock), rates were unchanged.  Unemployment rates were down 0.3 percentage points in Pine Bluff and Fort Smith, and down 0.2 percentage points in Texarkana.  In Hot Springs, where the unemployment rate remains slightly above the statewide average, the unemployment rate ticked down by 0.1.  Memphis was the exception to the pattern, where a 0.1 percentage point increase in unemployment increased the rate to the highest among all metro areas that include parts of Arkansas.

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

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

Unemployment rates remained lower than a year earlier in all eight of the metro areas.  The largest decline was in Pine Bluff — down 1.6 percentage points (not seasonally adjusted data).  The unemployment rate in Texarkana rose 0.5 percentage points since May, but was 0.1 percentage point lower than in October 2015.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Data on nonfarm payroll employment was mixed.  Employment was higher in Memphis, Fort Smith and Little Rock, but declined in Jonesboro, Hot Springs and Pine Bluff.  There was no change in Fayetteville and Texarkana.

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

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

Over the most recent 12 months, employment has increase in all metro areas except Pine Bluff and Texarkana.  Those are also the only two metro areas where employment has declined, on net, since the nationwide and statewide employment trough-date of February 2010.

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – August 2016

By , September 30, 2016 3:53 PM

New data on employment and unemployment in metro areas came out earlier this week.  The data continue to show substantially lower unemployment rates in most Arkansas metro areas than a year earlier, although most of the decline took place in the latter part of 2015 with monthly data showing rates leveling off more recently.  In Texarkana, the unemployment rate has been drifting higher in recent months, leaving a net change of zero compared to August 2016.

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

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

From July to August, seasonally adjusted estimates show no change in unemployment rates in most metro areas.  Unemployment rates in Fayetteville and Texarkana crept upward by one-tenth of a percentage point, while Hot Springs saw its unemployment rate decline by one-tenth.  The unemployment rate in Pine Bluff increased by two-tenths of a percent.

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

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

As shown in the figure below, unemployment rates in Arkansas have leveled off since spring, and in some cases have increased through the summer.  Considerable variation remains among metro area rates, with unemployment under 3% in Fayetteville and over 5% in Memphis 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
Estimates of nonfarm payroll employment in August were mixed.  From July to August, employment declined in Fayetteville and Pine Bluff, while increasing in Fort Smith, Little Rock, and Memphis.  Compared to a year earlier, only Pine Bluff shows a net decline in employment.  Since the employment trough of February 2010, the data show strong job growth in the Northwest and Northeast regions of the state, with more modest growth in other metro areas.  The exception is Pine Bluff, where employment has continued to decline.

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

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

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Metro Area GDP – 2015

By , September 27, 2016 4:55 PM

New data on metropolitan area GDP were published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis last week.  For the metro areas in Arkansas, the news was decidedly mixed.  Only one of Arkansas’ metro areas — Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers — had GDP growth in excess of the national average for metro areas:  Growth in Northwest Arkansas was reported at 4.4%, compared to 2.5% for the aggregate of all U.S. metro areas.  At 2.4%, Jonesboro’s growth rate was near the national average.  At the other end of the scale, GDP was reported to have contracted in three metro areas, with losses in Hot Springs and Pine Bluff reported at -3.0%.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The data for a single year do not always reveal the underlying growth trend.  As shown in the figure below, for example, the contraction in Hot Springs interrupted a series of years with relatively robust growth.  Even after declining 3% in 2015, GDP in Hot Springs was up 12.7% from it’s pre-recession level in 2007.  Over the same period, Fayetteville was the fastest-growing metro, with cumulative growth of 28.5%.  At the other end of the scale, GDP in Pine Bluff was down nearly 14% from its 2007 level.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Another caveat to the interpretation of the latest data:  The figures for 2015 are considered to be “advance estimates,” subject to considerable future revision.  The data release last week included revisions to the data for 2014, which were sizable in some cases.  In fact, for four metro areas (Hot Springs, Little Rock, Memphis, and Texarkana) even the direction of GDP change in 2014 has now been revised.  The update to Texarkana data is particularly large: having been originally estimated at -1.0%, GDP in 2014 is now reported to have increased at a 1.6% rate.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The revisions to 2014 data show that the new data for 2015 should be interpreted with caution.  The multi-year trends in the data are revealing, but the latest reading on annual growth rates may look quite a bit different when the data are revised a year from now.

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – June 2016

By , August 3, 2016 4:35 PM

Unemployment rates ticked up in Arkansas metro areas in June, but rates remain far lower than a year ago.  Today’s news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that unemployment rates were lower than a year earlier in 285 of the nations 387 metropolitan areas, and all 8 metro areas that cover parts of Arkansas were in that total.  Year-over-year changes ranged from -0.7% in Fort Smith and Texarkana to -1.6% in Pine Bluff.

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

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

From May to June, not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates increased by 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points, but most of those gains were typical seasonal changes.  After seasonal adjustment, unemployment rates increased by only 0.1 percentage point in most metro areas.  Rate increases were larger for Fort Smith and Memphis, and unemployment was unchanged in Texarkana.  As previously reported, the statewide unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) was unchanged at 3.8% in June, while the national unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points from 4.7% to 4.9%.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment changes were mixed  From May to June, payrolls declined in Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Fort Smith but were up in the state’s other metro areas.  Employment in Hot Springs was up 0.8%.  From June 2015 to June 2016, employment in three metro areas increased at a higher rate than the statewide average of 1.7%:  Hot Springs increased 3.8%, Fayetteville was up 3.7%, and Jonesboro rose by 3.5%.  Since the employment trough of February 2010, the northwest and northeast corners of the state have seen the strongest job growth (23% in Fayetteville and 16.4% in Pine Bluff).  At the other extreme, employment in Pine Bluff is nearly 10% lower than in February 2010, and is down 12.3% from pre-recession levels.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

The chart below illustrates the divergent employment trends among the state’s metro areas since the 2008-09 recession.  Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Little Rock are the only three metro areas to have higher employment now than at the end of 2007.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

 

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Real Personal Income – 2014

By , July 8, 2016 4:22 PM

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released new figures on real personal income for states and metropolitan areas yesterday.  The data contain a wealth of information on incomes, prices and standards-of-living.  They are based on a relatively new dataset calculating “regional price parities,” (RPPs) which measure differences in the prices levels of goods and services across states and metropolitan areas.  Essentially, RPPs serve as a measure of relative price levels among states and metro areas.

The newest data, which apply to 2014, show that the cost of living in Arkansas is the second-lowest in the nation.   The RPP for Arkansas was 87.5, down from 87.7 in 2013.  This number can be interpreted as saying that the cost of living was 12.5% below the national average in 2014.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Because prices in Arkansas are among the lowest in the nation, the purchasing power of incomes in Arkansas is far closer to the national average than nominal (dollar-denominated) incomes would suggest.  In 2014, per capita personal income in Arkansas was only 82% of the national average–ranking the state #43 among the 50 states plus D.C.  After adjusting for differences in the cost of living, however, real per capita income in Arkansas was 93.9% of the national average–implying a ranking of #34.

The slight down-tick in the RPP for Arkansas (from 87.7 in 2013 to 87.5 in 2014) can be interpreted as indicating a lower rate of inflation in Arkansas than the national average.  The U.S. inflation rate in 2014 (as measured by the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index) was 1.4%.  The implied regional price deflator for Arkansas increased by only 1.2%.  Hence, the state’s 3.7% growth rate of nominal personal income translates to a real (inflation-adjusted) growth rate of 2.5%.  For the U.S., the nominal growth rate of 4.4% implied a real growth rate of 2.9%.

The composition of Arkansas’ low RPP is typical of other low cost-of-living states:  Prices for goods are near the national average, but the prices of services — especially rents — are far below the norm.  This is not surprising, of course.  Goods can be transported and sold with little marginal expense.  Services are not so transportable.  In fact, in the jargon of international trade, services are often classified as “non-tradables.”  Statewide, the RPP for goods in Arkansas was 95.1%, implying that prices of goods were only 4.9% below the national average.  The RPP for non-rent services was 93.5, while the RPP for rents (which also proxy for home prices) was only 62.5.

As shown in the table below, there is considerable variation among RPPs in Arkansas metropolitan areas.  Overall RPPs range from 91.9 in Memphis to a low of 82.0 in Jonesboro.  The cost of living in Jonesboro–18% below the national average–is the fifth-lowest in the nation.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

While there is variation in RPP price-levels around the state, all RPPs in Arkansas are below 100, implying below-average costs.  This also translates to higher purchasing power.  As shown in the table below, the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metro area is the only part of the state where dollar-incomes are above the national average, with incomes in Pine Bluff at less than two-thirds of the norm.  After RPP adjustment, incomes in all parts of the state (other than Northwest Arkansas) are closer to the national average.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Changes in RPPs for different metro and nonmetro areas around the state also differ, implying variation in inflation rates.  In economic terms, it is the real inflation-adjusted growth rates of income that matters.  The table below shows both nominal and real income growth for the metro and nonmetro areas of Arkansas.  Note that the differences between total income growth and per capita income growth reflects changes in population.  Much of the total income growth in Northwest Arkansas represents population growth that has accompanied general economic expansion.  On the other hand, total real income growth in Pine Bluff was negative, but the losses in income reflected declining population.  In per capita terms, real income in Pine Bluff remained approximately unchanged from the previous year (+0.1%).

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

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Metro Area Unemployment and Employment – February 2016

By , April 7, 2016 4:55 PM

New data on unemployment rates in  metro areas came out yesterday.  However, the full time series for employment, unemployment and labor force participation are still not available following the most recent data revision.  Consequently, the only information to report at this time is the not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for February.  As shown in the table, unemployment rates have fallen substantially over the most recent 12 months in all eight of the metro areas covering portions of Arkansas.  Declines range from one full percentage point in Texarkana to 1.7% in Memphis.  The BLS News Release noted that Memphis was tied for the largest unemployment rate decline among the 51 metro areas in the country with a population of 1 million or more.

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

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

Payroll Employment:
As previously reported, statewide nonfarm payroll employment rose sharply in February, increasing by 6,100 jobs (0.5%).  Over half of that net job gain took place in Northwest Arkansas:  Employment in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metro area rose by 3,100 for the month — 1.3%.  Gains were also reported in Jonesboro, Little Rock, and Pine Bluff.  Employment was down for the month in Fort Smith, Memphis, and Texarkana.*  On a year over year basis, employment is up in all metro areas except Pine Bluff.

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

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

# # #

Note:  Seasonally adjusted payroll employment data for Texarkana remain temporarily unavailable from the BLS.  The data in this report were seasonally adjusted in-house at the Institute for Economic Advancement.

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Metro Area Employment & Unemployment – January 2016

By , March 18, 2016 5:04 PM

New data on employment and unemployment in metropolitan areas were released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The BLS report noted that unemployment rates were “lower in January than a year earlier in 333 of the 387 metropolitan areas.”  All of the metro areas covering parts of Arkansas fell into this category.  As shown in the table below, metro unemployment rates have declined dramatically over the past 12 months, with changes ranging from -1.1 percentage points in Fort Smith to -2.3 percentage points in Pine Bluff.  Significant differences in unemployment rates around the state remain:  The unemployment rate in Northwest Arkansas stood at 3.3% in January (not seasonally adjusted) while the rate for Pine bluff was 6.4%.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Data from the household survey–including unemployment rates–were revised since the release of the December data.  However, the revised estimates have not yet been loaded into the BLS time series database, nor have revised seasonally adjusted estimates yet been reported.  Consequently, further detailed examination of the paths of unemployment in Arkansas metro areas will await the availability of the revised data, scheduled to be available on April 15th.

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment dropped statewide in January, with the decline reflected in the metropolitan area data for Fayetteville, Hot Springs, Memphis and Pine Bluff.  Jonesboro and Texarkana saw employment gains for the month, while Little Rock and Fort Smith were essentially unchanged.  Compared to a year ago, employment was up in most areas of the state, with the exception of a small decline registered for Pine Bluff (which is also the only metro area in the state with net employment losses since the employment trough of February 2010).  After revisions (see below), only three metro areas presently display higher levels of employment than before the 2008-09 recession.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The payroll data have been revised as part of the annual benchmark processing to reflect 2015 employment counts from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.  Not seasonally adjusted figures were revised back to April 2014, and seasonally adjusted numbers were revised back to January 2011.  As summarized in the table below, and illustrated with the subsequent panel of charts, the revisions were in some cases quite substantial.

The revisions were generally positive, with the notable exceptions of Jonesboro and Hot Springs.  Previously reported data had shown Jonesboro to be the fastest-growing metro area in the state, expanding by 7.5% during 2014 and 2015.  That growth rate was marked down by nearly two percentage points.  Meanwhile a sharp upward revision to the data for Northwest Arkansas put the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metro area into the top growth rate position (11.1%).  The other downward revision affected Hot Springs:  A 2.3% downward revision to the estimated level of employment in Hot Springs lowered reported growth from 3.7% to 1.6% for the 2014-15 period.

Source:   Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The largest positive revision was reflected in a 6.3% increase in estimated employment in Pine Bluff.  Previously reported data had indicated a 6.8% contraction in employment — primarily over the first half of 2015.  The revised data suggest that employment in Pine Bluff has stabilized over the past two years.

A similar, albeit smaller, positive revision for Fort Smith changed estimated employment growth from negative to positive.  Previously published data for Texarkana* had indicated sluggish growth but the new data indicate a robust pace of employment expansion.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

# # #

Note:  Seasonally adjusted payroll employment data for Texarkana remain temporarily unavailable from the BLS.  The data in this report were seasonally adjusted in-house at the Institute for Economic Advancement.

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FHFA House Prices – 2015:Q4

By , February 25, 2016 4:08 PM

New data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) show continuing appreciation of Arkansas house prices.  As illustrated in the figure below, the FHFA Expanded-Data Index for Arkansas increased in each quarter of 2015.  In the fourth quarter, the index was up 1.1% from the previous quarter, and 3.2% higher than the previous year.  The index for the U.S. — recovering from a significantly sharper decline of 2007-2011 — was up 1.3% for the quarter and 5.6% for the year.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

The expanded data indexes are only available at the state level, but the FHFA publishes All-Transactions indexes that cover metropolitan areas as well.  The table below summarizes recent house-price changes in Arkansas’ eight metro areas.  In the fourth quarter, prices were down in Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.  For the year, prices were down only slightly in Texarkana, but were higher in all other metro areas (as well as the non-metropolitan portions of the state).

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

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

House prices in Northwest Arkansas have shown the most rapid appreciation over the past five years, but are recovering from the largest house-price declines in state during the 2007-2011 period.  In fact, the figure below illustrates that most of the state’s metro and non-metro areas suffered only modest declines during the nationwide housing price collapse, and all have shown at least modest appreciation over the most recent two- to five-year period.

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

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

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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – December 2015

By , February 3, 2016 4:17 PM

As previously reported, statewide unemployment declined by two-tenths of a percent in December — a result that is mirrored in new statistics for Arkansas’ metropolitan areas.  As shown in the table below, unemployment rates fell in all eight metro areas that include parts of Arkansas.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Over the course of the year, unemployment rates around the state have declined significantly.  From December 2014 to December 2015, changes ranged from -0.4% in Fort Smith to one full percentage point in Hot Springs and Jonesboro.  At the end of the year, unemployment rates were at or below 5% in five of the eight metro areas.

Source:   Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Payroll Employment
Changes in nonfarm payroll employment were mixed.  Employment declined in Jonesboro, Little Rock, and Pine Bluff, but showed strong gains in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs and Memphis.  Compared to a year ago, payroll employment was up in six metro areas, having fallen in Fort Smith and Pine Bluff.  Growth over the past 12 months has been particularly strong in Fayetteville and Jonesboro.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

As shown in the figure below, strong payroll employment growth in Fayetteville and Jonesboro continues a trend that has characterized the entire economic expansion, with the two northern corners of the state experiencing far more rapid growth than the rest of the region.  At the other extreme, employment in Pine Bluff has continued to decline.  At the end of 2015, Pine Bluff payrolls were down 17.5% from pre-recession levels.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Note:  The metro-area payroll data will be subject to the annual benchmark revision process, with revised numbers to be reported in mid-March.  Our estimates of the statewide employment revisions suggest that the updated data will show slower growth among at least some of the state’s metro areas, particularly for the second half of 2014.

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