The November Employment Report

By , December 18, 2009 6:53 PM

Data on employment and unemployment in Arkansas were released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Overall, the report indicates a continuation of the trends we’ve seen in recent months.   There is no clear inidication of an upturn in employment, but neither is there evidence that the employment situation is deteriorating.  However, buried among the details of the report are some encouraging tidbits.

The household survey showed a decline in the unemployment rate, from 7.6 percent in October to 7.4 percent in November.  More important, the raw numbers that underlie the unemployment rate showed an increase of more than 10,000 in the number of people employed and a decrease of almost 2500 in the number of people unemployed.

The payroll survey showed an increase in jobs for November as well, although the data for October were revised downward to more than offset those gains.  Nevertheless, since March of 2009 nonfarm payrolls have shed only 2,500 jobs —  a decline of about 0.2%.

The sectoral composition of job gains and losses in November showed some interesting features:   Increases were registered in Construction (+1000), Manufacturing (+300), and Transportation (+1100)–three sectors that have been hard-hit during the recession.   In contrast, employment in Education and Health services declined by 1800 jobs in November.  Health services has added 13,000 jobs to the Arkansas economy since the beginning of the recession, but recent budgetary constraints at major hospitals has evidently stalled further expansion in this sector — for now.

Recovery in employment is likely to be a long, slow process.  At this point, the data suggest that we’re still in a period of stabilization.

Third Quarter Personal Income Growth

By , December 17, 2009 11:06 AM

Figures for personal income growth in the 50 States and District of Columbia were released this morning.  In Arkansas, personal income was essentially unchanged from the previous quarter.  The press release from the Bureau of Economic Analysis was generally upbeat, noting that the report showed “19 states seeing net earnings growth for the first time in at least a year.”  With income growth improving in many States, the zero-growth measured for Arkansas placed our state in the lowest quintile with a rank of #42.


Today’s report is a very good example of why it is important to look beyond a single data observation.  For many states in the nation, even modest income growth represents a vast improvement over recent quarters.  However, Arkansas suffered a more modest slowing of income during the recession.  Personal income during the first two quarters of the year declined by less than one-tenth of one percent in Arkansas.  Income declines in other parts of the country were far greater, with a national average of -1.5%. 

The report released today shows that Arkansas personal income in the third quarter was only 0.09% lower than in the fourth quarter of 2008.  From this longer term perspective (cumulative growth during 2009), Arkansas is in the highest quintile among the states, with a rank of #8. 

Arkansas may not be showing the gains that are being recorded in other states, but we didn’t suffer as severe a downturn either.   It’s good news that other parts of the country are showing signs of recovery – this can only help businesses in Arkansas as demand for our goods and services picks up in other parts of the nation .

Metro Area Unemployment in October

By , December 2, 2009 4:02 PM

The October unemployment rates for Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) were released by the BLS this morning.  The report on state unemployment rates released two weeks ago showed that Arkansas’ unemployment rate rose by one-half of one percent to 7.6 percent.  The new data for Arkansas’ MSAs show similar sharp increases.

As noted in earlier posts, the MSA data are not seasonally adjusted by BLS.  The unadjusted data show that unemployment rates rose slightly or remained steady in October.  However, October is a month in which seasonal movements typically result in a falling unemployment rate.  After accounting for this recurring pattern, seasonally-adjusted measures show increases in the range of 0.4 to 0.6 percent.

The table below summarizes the MSA unemployment rate data for October.


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