Metro Area Employment – A Slow Summer

By , October 1, 2010 12:55 PM

Earlier this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest report on employment and unemployment in the nations Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).  The data indicate that it has been a slow summer for job growth in Arkansas’ MSAs.

Unemployment data for August (not seasonally adjusted) showed that the unemployment rate ticked up by one-tenth of a percent in three of the state’s MSAs, and was unchanged in the other four.  However, August is typically a month in which the unemployment rate experiences a seasonal decline.  Adjusting the data for this recurring seasonal pattern, the data show that unemployment rose substantially in each of the state’s seven metro areas.  For four of the seven metro areas, the increase in seasonally-adjusted unemployment in August follows an uptick in July as well.

Sources:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

Payroll employment growth in Arkansas MSAs also showed weakness in August.  From July to August, employment increased in Fort Smith and Hot Springs, but declined in each of the other metro areas.   For the first eight months of the year, only Hot Springs and Texarkana have shown positive job growth.   Compared to the previous year, employment is lower in five of the seven MSAs, with positive year-over-year changes recorded for Jonesboro and Texarkana. 

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Since the onset of the recession in December 2007, cumulative job losses vary considerably across metro areas.  Employment in Jonesboro has recovered to about the same level as at the end of 2007.  At the other end of the spectrum, Fort Smith has seen job losses totalling 8.2 percent.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Arkansas Home Sales – August 2010

By , September 28, 2010 3:20 PM

The Arkansas Realtors® Association released new information on August home sales this morning.  For the month, the data show total sales of 1897 units, down 14.7 percent from August of 2009.  However, year-over-year comparisons are not necessarily the most informative guage to use under the current circumstances.  A year ago, the first-time home-buyers’ tax credit was helping to boost sales, while the expiration of tax credits in April of this year has contributed to a slump in home sales during the summer of 2010.   As shown in Figure 1, home sales usually follow a distinct seasonal pattern, with the highest sales during the summer months (May through August).  This year, the rush to take advantage of tax credits pushed the peak to earlier in the year.  

Figure 1:
Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Typically,  the peak sales month is July, but August sales also tend to be relatively high.  On average over the past three years, August sales have been approximately 4 percent lower than July.  In 2010, sales in August were 7.8 percent higher than the previous month.  This uncharacteristic pattern suggests that the post-tax-credit hangover hit hardest in July and the market is starting to recover.   Reinforcing this conclusion, Figure 2 shows data that have been seasonally adjusted.*  The seasonal adjustment procedure smooths out the predictable seasonal fluctuations, leaving only idiosyncratic month-to-month volatility and broad cyclical patterns.

Figure 2:
Sources:  Arkansas Realtors® Association, Institute for Economic Advancement

Sources: Arkansas Realtors® Association, Institute for Economic Advancement

In the adjusted data, it is clear that sales improved steadily over the course of 2009 (presumably with support from the original first-time home buyers’ credit).   After the expiration of the original tax credit program, sales slowed over the winter months before being boosted by the extended and expanded tax-credit program in the first part of 2010.  Both Figure 1 and Figure 2 show that the August sales number represents a slight rebound from the July slump.

Data on the average sales price of Arkansas homes, displayed in Figure 3, show that the slowdown in sales has been accompanied by a rather sharp increase in prices.  The average sales price for August was $152,466, up by over 12 percent compared to February 2010.  It is very unlikely that this increase represents a rise in the general value of Arkansas houses.  Rather, the increase in prices represents a changing mix of homes that are being sold.  The home-buyer tax credits tended to favor buyers in the low- to mid-price range.  Now that they have expired, a larger proportion of total sales are higher-priced homes.  The increase in average sales prices is also supported by a seasonal pattern in which higher-priced homes tend to experience relatively higher sales volume over the summer months. 

Figure 3:
Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

 The headline of the press release from the Arkansas Realtors® Association emphasized that year-to-date home sales in 2010 were approximately equal to the same period in 2009.  Given the recent distortions in the market due to the implementation and expiration of home-buyer tax-credits, this is probably the most reasonable intertemporal comparison to make.  In order for annual home sales in 2010 to exceed those of 2009, however, we will have to see further sales recovery in the remaining months of the year.

#  #  #

*Seasonally adjusted data are computed by applying the Census X12 ARIMA procedure to monthly data for January 2007 through August 2010.

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – August 2010

By , September 21, 2010 11:37 AM

The latest information on Arkansas employment and unemployment was released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services this morning.  The report showed that the unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of one percent to 7.5%.   The household survey showed that the number of unemployed persons rose by over 1,800 in August (seasonally adjusted).  

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll employment data also indicated labor market weakness in August.  Seasonally adjusted data showed a decline of nearly 11,000 jobs.  The losses were most prominent in Education and Health Services, and Government.    Declines in Government jobs were primarily in the category of Federal employees, and most likely represent the layoff of temporary Census workers.  According to the report from the Arkansas Department of workforce services, the losses in Education and Health were primarily in the education category.
Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The information in the employment report for August indicates a slowdown in the the pace of economic recovery in Arkansas.  Nevertheless, there is no reason to believe that it represents anything more than a temporary setback.  Total employment remains above the level of December 2009 and above the level of a year ago.  Several sectors continue to show net job growth over the past several months.  Sectors that have shown positive growth over the first eight months of the year include construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation, and utilities; and education and health services.

#  #  #

*Seasonally adjusted data for nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly press release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, are available here
Table – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Arkansas Personal Income – 2010:Q2

By , September 20, 2010 9:48 AM

This morning, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released new data for state-level personal income.  In the second quarter of 2010, all 50 states (plus D.C.) showed positive income growth, ranging from 2.0 percent in North Dakota to 0.3 percent for Nevada.  Arkansas personal income increased by 0.9 percent, just slightly lower than the national average of 1.0 percent. 

As shown in the chart below, personal income in both Arkansas and the U.S. peaked in the second quarter of 2007, with the data for Arkansas showing a shallower downturn during the recession than the U.S.  The second quarter increase in Arkansas represented the fifth consecutive quarter of positive income growth. 

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

According to the press release from the BEA, Arkansas is one of 27 states where personal income has now climbed above the current-dollar level reached before the recession.  In part, the relatively strong performance of Arkansas reflects newly-revised data.  This morning’s announcement included revised statistics for the period 2001 through 2009.  The chart below shows how the revisions affected data for Arkansas.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Arkansas Home Sales – July Update

By , September 9, 2010 12:29 PM

This morning, the Arkansas Realtors® Association (ARA) released home sales statistics for the month of July.  As anticipated (see previous post), sales were down sharply from the previous month and were substantially lower than the previous year.  Compared to July 2009, Arkansas home sales were down 31.6 percent.  As shown in the chart below, home sales during 2010 have followed an unusual seasonal pattern. 

ara0710

Typically, sales peak during the mid-summer months (usually in July), then taper off over the remainder of the year.  This year, the peak came early.  The reason, of course, was the availability of tax credit for home buyers, which expired at the end of April.  To qualify for the credit, a contract needed to be in place before May 1, but the actual closing date could be later.  Hence, sales figures for May and June  were supported by the lingering effects of the credits.   The steep decline in July reported this morning mirrors the pattern we saw in the national data for new and existing home sales, and reflects the fact that most of the contracts that were eligible for tax credits have already been closed.

The big question is how the rest of the year will develop.  Temporary subsidies and incentives tend to shift demand from one time period to another.  Many of the home sales that took place in the first half of 2010 would have probably occurred later in the year were it not for the tax credit deadline.  The key issue is whether there is substantial demand remaining to support the market after the hangover ends.  In this regard, forecasts are necessarily uncertain. 

Some specific fundamentals suggest that there may be some limited recovery of the market during the fall months:  House prices remain somewhat weak and mortgage rates are at historic lows — it’s still a buyer’s market.  There will continue to be routine demand for homes associated with relocations.  On the other hand, the slow recovery of employment has sapped some strength out of consumer confidence, so there is apprehension about making the kind of long-term commitment that is entailed in buying a house.  Since Arkansas has not suffered the magnitude of job losses seen in other parts of the country, and is showing some signs of recovery, we can be hopeful that this will not be a significant damper on housing demand during the remaining months of 2010.

The full report from the ARA (Excel spreadsheet) can be downloaded here.

Arkansas Taxable Sales – Revised Data for 2010:Q2

By , September 1, 2010 8:00 AM

“Sales rose by 3.0 percent, rather than the 4.0 percent previously reported.”   

The reason:  “Grocery sales, as a percent of total sales, dropped sharply in June.  This could actually be a positive development.”

The preliminary estimate for second quarter growth of Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS), announced in a previous post, was based on information from the July 2010 General Revenue Report from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA).  With the recent release of more detailed information in the DFA publication Arkansas Fiscal Notes, a revised estimate of ATS shows a somewhat smaller increase in the second quarter of 2010:  Sales rose by 3.0 percent, rather than the 4.0 percent previously reported.

The downward revision is disappointing.  But as shown in the chart below, it doesn’t really change the qualitative interpretation of second quarter data:  Sales accelerated in 2010:Q2 and have risen significantly since the apparent trough of 2009:Q3. 

Source:  Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, and author's calculations.

Sources: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration and author's calculations.

Investigation of the reason for the downward revision in ATS reveals an interesting observation:  Grocery sales, as a percent of total sales, dropped sharply in the June.  This could actually be a positive development.  

Preliminary estimates of ATS are based on gross receipts, which primarily reflect total sales tax collections.  But total sales taxes represent a mix of taxes on groceries (at a current tax rate of 2 percent) and taxes on non-groceries (at a tax rate of 6 percent).  Changes in the mix of these two categories alter the effective tax rate on total sales.

The revised figures for ATS are based on data on receipts from the Arkansas Conservation Tax.  Because it is written into the Arkansas constitution, the Conservation Tax was not altered by reductions in the tax rate on groceries in July 2007 (from 6 percent to 3 percent) and in July 2009 (from 3 percent to 2 percent).  Instead, the lower sales tax on groceries is reflected in proportional reductions in the other three components of Arkansas’ Sales and Use Tax (the General Sales Tax , the Educational Adequacy Tax, and the Property Tax Relief Tax).

When groceries decline as a fraction of total sales, these three taxes show a disproportionate increase in overall tax receipts (because a larger share of sales are taxed at a higher rate).  The preliminary ATS estimates (which are implicitly based on the assumption of a constant share of grocery sales) would therefore overstate the increase in total taxable sales if this were the case.

This appears to be exactly what happened in June.  By comparing changes in tax receipts from the conservation tax with receipts from the other sales tax components, it is possible to estimate the share of grocery sales as a proportion of total sales (see technical note).  The results of this estimation are shown in the chart below.  Before the national recession began at the end of 2007, groceries constituted about 6 percent of total sales.  This proportion rose during the early stages of the recession in 2008, and increased sharply at the end of the year when the financial crisis intensified the economic downturn.  Estimates for June 2010 show a sharp decline, from about 12 percent to just over 8 percent.

Sources:  Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, and author's calculations.

Sources: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, and author's calculations.

Economic theory distinguishes goods by the responsiveness of their demand to changes in income.  Some basic grocery items are considered “inferior goods,” reflecting the fact that fewer are purchased as income increases (in favor of higher-quality goods).  In general, groceries are considered “normal goods,” for which demand increases when income rises, but typically less than one-for-one.   In contrast, some  goods are considered “superior goods” or “luxury goods,” for which demand increases in greater proportion to income.

The observation that grocery sales increased as a percent of total sales during 2008 and into 2009 is therefore consistent with a downturn in household income during the recession.  The recent decline in the grocery sales suggests that households are increasing their purchases of superior goods relative to normal and inferior goods.  This provides indirect evidence of higher household incomes (or at least expected incomes).

This observation is supported by data for only one month, so it should be taken as conjectural.  However, it suggests that the downward revision in ATS for the second quarter is not unambiguously bad news.

#  #  #

The Arkansas Taxable Sales series is calculated by IEA to serve as a timely measure of Arkansas retail sales.  The series is derived from sales and use tax data from DFA, adjusting for the relative timing of tax collections and underlying sales, changes in tax laws, and seasonal patterns in the data.

A spreadsheet of the most recent data is available here:  Arkansas Taxable Sales data (Excel file)

Arkansas Housing Markets – A Status Report

By , August 27, 2010 3:20 PM

“the expiration of the home-buyer tax credits is the elephant in the room”

Information on residential real estate markets has dominated the news over the past few days.  When it comes to evaluating the housing markets in Arkansas, recent reports from various sources show a consistent picture of recent trends, but the outlook is very uncertain.

Home Sales

The Arkansas Realtors Association (ARA) released statistics this week showing that June home sales were up slightly over the previous year, but down from the previous month.  As shown in Chart 1 below, housing sales follow a recurring seasonal pattern, with the summer months tending to have higher sales than winter months.  July is often the peak sales months of the year, but so far this year, sales peaked in April and have declined since then.

Chart 1:
Source:  Arkansas Realtors Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors Association

Disentangling the cyclical and seasonal effects is crucial to understanding recent trends.  Chart 2, below, shows seasonally adjusted data that are averaged over calendar quarters to smooth out some of the month-to-month variability (the data are seasonally adjusted using the technique described in a previous article).

Chart 2:
Sources:  Arkansas Realtors Association, National Association of Realtors

Sources: Arkansas Realtors Association, National Association of Realtors

With these refinements, the cyclical pattern of home sales is more evident:  After declining throughout 2007 and 2008, sales steadily increased over the course of 2009.  The first quarter of 2010 saw a sharp decline, followed by a rebound in the second quarter.  Recent data for Arkansas home sales from the National Association of Realtors  (NAR), also displayed in Chart 2, confirm the recent quarterly pattern in the adjusted ARA data.

The sharp decline in the first quarter of 2010 can be partly attributed to weather.  Sales are usually low in the winter months, and this past winter in Arkansas was particularly ill-suited to house shopping.  Sales recovered in the second quarter to about the same pace as in the fourth quarter of 2009.

But when it comes to assessing the outlook for home sales, the expiration of the home-buyer tax credits is the elephant in the room.  Sales in the fourth quarter of 2009 were boosted by last-minute purchases under the original tax credit program for first-time buyers that expired at the end of October.  Weather might have kept activity low in the first quarter, but the impending deadline for taking advantage of the extended and expanded home-buyer tax credit on April 30 was undoubtedly a factor in the second quarter resurgence.

The recent tax-credit deadline required that a contract be in place by the end of April, but the closing date could be later.  As a result, recorded sales in May and June included some transactions that are associated with last-minute contracts to qualify for the credits.  The crucial question is whether the second quarter increase reflects sales that would have taken place later in the year in the absence of the tax-credit deadeline — implying that we should expect a sharp decline over the next few months — or whether it reflects a sustainable improvement in market conditions.

Preliminary information suggests that we will see a drop-off in the third quarter.  New data on existing home sales and new home sales nationwide showed sharp declines in July.  Information on home sales in central Arkansas for July show that Arkansas housing market experienced this downturn as well.  For example, sales in Pulaski county were reported to be down 30.2 percent from the previous month and down 31.5 percent from July 2009.  When the statewide sales figures for July are released by the ARA next month, they are likely to show a sharp downturn.  

Arkansas home sales over the remaining summer months will probably be relatively weak, as the market returns to an equilibrium undistorted by government subsidies.  On the other hand, mortgage rates remain low and house prices have fallen (see below), so the market continues to be favorable for buyers.  This factor should help sustain sales later in the year.

House Prices

In addition to reports from the ARA and NRA, new data on housing prices were released this week by the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA).  Since the housing downturn began in early 2007, the FHFA purchase-only price index has shown a distinctly lower rate of appreciation than the all-transactions index, which includes appraisal data from refinancings.  Ultimately, it is the market sales price that matters, so the purchase-only index provides more accurate information on current market conditions.  However, refinancings are more likely to be prevalent in areas where houses are retaining their value, so the all-transactions index might give a better indication of long-run home values.  [See also, Comment:  Differences Among Home-Price Indices]

As shown in Chart 3, below, the two measures of house prices have diverged considerably since the market downturn began, with   the purchase-only index showing considerably more variability.  Over the past four quarters, the purchase-only index has experienced quarterly ups and downs, but has changed little on net.  The all-transactions index has fallen by 2.4 percent.

Chart 3:
Source:  Federal Housing Finance Authority
Source: Federal Housing Finance Authority

Under either method, house prices in Arkansas have not experienced declines as large as the nationwide average.  Over the past four quarters, for example, the FHFA all-transactions index for the U.S. showed a 5 percent decline compared to the 2.4 percent decline in Arkansas. 

Chart 4, below, compares the two FHFA house price indexes for Arkansas with the average sales-price data from ARA.  The series are normalized to take on a value of 1.0 in the first quarter of 2007, so the data presented in the chart show cumulative price changes since that time.

Sources:  Federal Housing Finance Authority, Arkansas Realtors Association,  and authors' calculations

Sources: Federal Housing Finance Authority, Arkansas Realtors Association, and authors' calculations

 Not surprisingly, the average price data from ARA shows some similarity to the FHFA purchase-only index.  Both measures are based on prices of actual sales.  Both series show a sharp decline in the first quarter of 2010.  This drop is associated with the decline in home sales discussed earlier.  With fewer homes selling in general, the segment of the market including foreclosures and other distressed sales constituted a larger share of total sales, depressing average prices.  With the pickup in market activity in the second quarter, the price spike was also reversed.

Cumulatively, from 2007 through the second quarter of 2010, house prices in Arkansas have decline modestly.  All three measures of home prices show prices down over the period, but by magnitudes of only about 1 to 3 percent.

The FHFA also releases all-transactions indexes for metropolitan areas.  As shown in the table below, these data show that house price changes vary considerably across Arkansas’ metro areas.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Authority

Source: Federal Housing Finance Authority

Northwest Arkansas has experienced the largest and most persistent declines in house prices.  Earlier in the decade, the Fayetteville metro area showed the greatest appreciation in the state, so declines more recently serve to offset some of those earlier gains.  Hot Springs has recently shown fairly large declines as well, but compared to five years ago, prices are up about 14.6 percent.  Data for Jonesboro, Texarkana and Little Rock show that house prices increased in the second quarter, with prices also higher than a year ago.  In fact, Jonesboro serves as a counterexample to the experience of Northwest Arkansas:  Rather than rising sharply in the early part of the decade and subsequently declining, house prices in Jonesboro have experienced a relatively slow but steady upward trend.

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – July 2010

By , August 20, 2010 10:44 AM

 The latest information on Arkansas employment and unemployment was released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services this morning.  The report showed encouraging signs of continuing improvement in the Arkansas labor market.  The unemployment rate ticked down one-tenth of one percent to 7.4%.   The household survey also showed that the number of unemployed persons fell by 1,800 in July, dropping below 100,000 for the first time since May 2009.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Analysis of the payroll survey is complicated by seasonal patterns.  Without seasonal adjustment, the data show employment down by nearly 11,000 in July.  However, as shown in the chart below, July is typically a low-point in the recurring seasonal cycle diplayed by employment data.  (See Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rates for Arkansas MSAs.)  After seasonally adjusting the raw data, the statistics from BLS show that payroll employment rose by 3,600 jobs.  Since the end of 2009, payroll employment has increased by nearly 16,000 jobs.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The increase was broad-based, with increases in every major sector except financial services and government.  Employment in manufacturing showed its 7th consecutive monthly increase.  Trade, transportation and utilities was up by 900 jobs, and business and professional services rose by 1,400.  Education and health services continued to expand, adding approximately 2,400 jobs in July.  The decline in government employment can be primarily attributed to layoffs of temporary census workers.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Typical summer doldrums aside, the July employment report provides additional evidence that labor markets in Arkansas are steadily improving.

#  #  #

*Seasonally adjusted data for nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly press release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, are available here
Table – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Arkansas Taxable Sales up 4% in the Second Quarter

By , August 11, 2010 8:00 AM

The July General Revenue Report  from the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) showed that gross receipts collections (primarily sales and use taxes) were up sharply in July– 8.9 percent higher than the previous year and 2.7 percent above the DFA  forecast.   This information implies a surge in taxable sales toward the end of the second quarter of 2010.  

In fact, newly calculated statistics show that Arkansas Taxable Sales rose by 4.0 percent in the second quarter (preliminary*) following a revised 2.6 percent growth rate in the first quarter of the year.  The latest reading represents the third consecutive quarterly increase.

Source: Calculated by IEA using data from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration

Source: Calculated by the UALR Institute for Economic Advancement using data from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration

The improvement in Arkansas Taxable Sales growth in the second quarter contrasts with national retail sales data, which showed a slowdown in growth.  After increasing at a 2 percent rate in the first quarter, U.S. Retail Sales rose by only 1 percent in the second quarter.  As illustrated in the chart below, Arkansas Retail Sales have increased by a total of 7.6 percent over the past three quarters of growth, while U.S. Retail Sales have increased by only 6.8 percent over four quarters of growth.  The turnaround in Arkansas sales growth lagged the rest of the nation, but the most recent data on Arkansas Taxable Sales suggests that Arkansas is rebounding more quickly.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, UALR Institute for Economic Advancement.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, UALR Institute for Economic Advancement.

The Arkansas Taxable Sales series is calculated by IEA  to serve as a timely measure of Arkansas retail sales.  The series is derived from sales and use tax data from DFA, adjusting for the relative timing of tax collections and underlying sales, changes in tax laws, and seasonal patterns in the data.

A spreadsheet of the data is available here:  Arkansas Taxable Sales data (Excel file)

* Data are preliminary until the release of the DFA report, Arkansas Fiscal Notes for July 2010, and will be updated when information becomes available.

Metro Area Personal Income – 2009

By , August 9, 2010 7:24 PM

Statistics on personal income for the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in 2009 were released this morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).  The national economy was hitting the trough of a recession in 2009, so it is not surprising that the majority of MSAs experienced negative growth last year.  From the BEA press release:  “Personal income declined in 223 MSAs, increased in 134, and remained unchanged in 9 MSAs. On average, MSA personal income fell 1.8 percent in 2009, after rising 2.7 percent in 2008.”

The map of metro areas from BEA, displayed below, shows that income growth in Arkansas’ MSAs was mixed, but generally better-than-average.  Pine Bluff was in the highest-growth quintile, with Little Rock in the second quintile.  The remainder of the state’s MSAs ranked in the third and fourth quintiles, with none finishing among the bottom fifth.

MSA2009

Table 1 provides more detail, comparing personal incomes of Arkansas’ MSAs to the total metropolitan portion of the U.S.  Personal income declined in 5 of the state’s 7 MSAs, but increased in the Pine Bluff and Little Rock.   Income growth in each of Arkansas’ MSAs out-performed the nation’s metro areas as a whole.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Table 2 shows figures for per capita income in Arkansas MSAs.  In per capita terms, only Pine Bluff experienced positive income growth in 2009;  Its growth rate of 1.6 percent puts it in the top 25 among the nation’s metro areas.  Fayetteville’s per capita income declined slightly more than the national average, and Jonesboro’s decline was about equal to the total metropolitan portion of the U.S.  The other 5 MSAs in Arkansas experienced smaller losses than other metro areas across the nation.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The last two columns of Table 2 show per capita income in Arkansas’ MSAs as a percent of per capita income in the metropolitan portion of the U.S.  The latest data show that Arkansas’ metro areas generally remain below-average.  Fort Smith, Jonesboro, and Pine Bluff are in the lowest quintile of MSA per capita personal income.  Fayetteville, Hot Springs, and Texarkana are in the fourth quintile.  The MSA with the highest per capita income, Little Rock, ranks in the second quintile.  Despite the fact that Arkansas’ metro areas outperformed other parts of the country in 2009, they gained little ground terms of per capita income.

The 2009 comparison of personal income in Arkansas’ MSAs to the rest of the nation’s metro areas is affected by two factors.  First, the recession in Arkansas was not generally as severe as in many parts of the country.  This accounts for the fact that all of Arkansas’ MSAs experienced above-average income growth.  On the other hand, evidence from statewide income growth and Arkansas taxable sales suggest that Arkansas reached a trough in economic activity in the third quarter of 2009 — one quarter later than the national economy.  This tends to depress measured growth rates for the year compared to those parts of the country that entered an economic recovery phase earlier than Arkansas.  As a result, the annual income statistics for Arkansas’ MSAs in 2009 reflect more weakness than do current economic conditions.

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