Arkansas Economic Development Institute

Category: Employment/Unemployment

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – June 2016

By , July 21, 2017 1:00 PM

Arkansas’ unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.4% in June.  The national average rate increased by 0.1 percentage point to 4.4% for the month, so the gap between Arkansas and the U.S. has widened to a full percentage point.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The data series underlying the unemployment rate continued to show movement in a positive direction:  The number of unemployed Arkansans declined by 238 while the number of employed increased by 9,481.  As a result, the labor force increased by 9,243 for the month.

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

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

There is reason to believe that some of the recent declines in Arkansas’ official unemployment rate might be overstating the actual fall in unemployment. Since the beginning of 2017, the household survey has shown the number of employed rising at an unprecedented rate — expanding at an annual rate of over 5 percent since December 2016.  Comparing the household data to the payroll survey, it appears likely that this rapid pace of household employment growth will ultimately be revised downward.  As illustrated in the figure below, the employment measure from the household survey has grown by 33.6 thousand over the past six months, while the payroll survey shows job growth of only 12.5 thousand.  Although the two measures of employment have slightly different definitions, they should generally be expected to move together over time.  Of the two, it is typically the household measure that is subject to more substantial annual revision.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

If a downward revision to the household employment data does eventually take place, then the exceptionally low unemployment rate recorded in Arkansas this year would be revised upward.  However, the magnitude of the adjustment to the unemployment rate would be relatively small.  Even taking into consideration the imprecision of the data, Arkansas unemployment rate is statistically significantly lower than the U.S. average.  So in the worst-case scenario, Arkansas’ true unemployment rate is closer to 4% than to 3.5%.  And the conclusion we can draw from examining both data sources is that Arkansas employment has been expanding at a healthy pace for the past 3-1/2 years, with no reason to expect a change in that trend.

Payroll Employment
Turning directly to the payroll survey, Arkansas’ nonfarm payroll employment expanded by 4,700 in June (seasonally adjusted).  The sector recording the largest gains was Leisure and Hospitality Services (+4,200), with most of the gain attributable to Accommodation and Food Services (+3,800).   June is typically a strong month for employment growth in this sector, but the increase in the seasonally-adjusted statistics indicates that the growth was exceptionally strong.  Other sectors adding jobs included Health Services and all sub-categories of Trade, Transportation and Utilities.  Professional and Business Services dropped by 3,000 jobs, with most of the job losses in the category of Administrative and Support Services.

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

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

Compared to a year ago, Arkansas payroll employment is up by 24,900 jobs — an increase of 2.0%.  That rate of job expansion puts Arkansas on the list of 33 states that have experienced statistically significant employment increases over the past 12 months.   In fact, Arkansas ranks #14 on that list.  Service-providing sectors are responsible for most of that job growth, but gains of 1,000 jobs in construction and 2,600 jobs in manufacturing have also provided for net growth in goods-producing employment as well.

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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 – 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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Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – May 2017

By , June 16, 2017 11:02 AM

Arkansas’ unemployment rate declined another tenth of a percent in May, setting a new series record low of 3.4%. With the U.S. rate tracking downward at the same pace, Arkansas’ unemployment rate remains nearly a full percentage point below the national average.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Underlying data from the household survey has been showing very strong employment growth during 2017, particularly over the past two months. The number of employed was up 8,604 in May after increasing 7,887 (revised) in April. These recent increases are reminiscent of early 2016, when household employment increased by an average of 10,000 per month for three months.  At the time, we were skeptical of the magnitude of those increases, and subsequent data revisions eliminated that brief surge from the record. With those large gains revised away, the increases from the past two months are far and away the largest monthly increases in the series’ history. The data clearly suggest that the number of employed is rising, but the magnitude of the gains over the past two months are eventually likely to look considerably smaller than the recently-released data suggest, once the final revisions are compete.

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 2,900 in May (seasonally adjusted) and is up 22,000 compared to a year earlier. Goods-producing sectors were little changed, on net, with manufacturing down by 1,000 and construction up by 800.  Employment gains in the service-providing sectors were concentrated in the rapidly-growing sectors of Professional & Business Services and Leisure & Hospitality Services. Health Services were down slightly in May, but employment in that sector is still up 4,800 from May 2016.

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

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

Over the past 12 months, the growth rate of Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment has been 1.8%, compared to 1.6% for the U.S.  Arkansas total payroll employment is now 3.3% higher than its level just before the 2007-08 recession.

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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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 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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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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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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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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