Institute for Economic Advancement

Arkansas Home Prices – 2010:Q1

By , May 25, 2010 4:51 PM

This morning, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released the latest data on house prices for states and metropolitan areas.  The data for Arkansas show a rather sharp decline in in the first quarter of 2010:  The purchase-only index was down 2.5 percent from a year earlier, while the all-transactions index was down 1.4 percent over the same period.  (For a description of these indexes, see the previous post, Home Prices in 2009.)

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

In the first quarter of 2010, house prices were down rather sharply in four of the state’s metro areas.  [For Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), only the all-transactions indexes are available.]  Prices were down 4.8 percent in Fort Smith, 2.7 percent in Northwest Arkansas, 1.5 percent in Jonesboro and 1.1 percent in the Little Rock area.  Hot Springs, Pine Bluff and Texarkana all recorded small increases for the quarter.  

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

Compared to a year earlier, house prices are lower in every Arkansas MSA except Pine Bluff.  Over the longer run, however, prices in each of the states MSAs are higher than five years ago (2005:Q1).

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – April 2010

By , May 21, 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 unemployment rate held steady in April at 7.8 percent, while the number of employed declined slightly from March.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Although the unemployment rate itself was unchanged, the household survey showed that the number of unemployed people declined from 197.1 thousand to 106.3 thousand.  This was the first monthly drop in the number of unemployed since March of 2008.  This drop failed to have an impact on the unemployment rate, however, since the number of employed reported in the household survey also declined.

The payroll survey also indicated a slight decline in the number of jobs.  Total nonfarm payrolls were down by approximately 1600 jobs in April (seasonally adjusted).*  The April decline follows a sharp increase we saw in March (up 8900 jobs, revised).  In terms of longer-term performance, therefore, the April decline does not appear to signal any change in the trend of employment growth.  For the first four months of the year, nonfarm payrolls have increased by 3600.   Employment is stabilizing, but there is no clear indication (yet) of a resumption of long-term job growth. 

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The decline in nonfarm payroll employment in April was largely attributable to service-providing sectors.  Goods-producing sectors had been very hard-hit during the recession so recent increases in  manufacturing employment, in particular, have represented welcome news.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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*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 2.4% in the First Quarter

By , May 10, 2010 9:06 AM

“Sales rose by 2.4 percent in the first quarter of 2010 following a 1.0 percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2009…”

As described in a previous article, data on state sales tax collections can be used to measure overall sales activity in the state, producing a data series we called Arkansas Taxable Sales.  The Institute for Economic Advancement has developed this measure to help fill an existing gap in the availability of timely, accurate data on the retail sales sector of the Arkansas economy.

The latest report on state revenues from the Department of Finance and Administration showed that April gross receipts collections (primarily sales taxes) were up from the previous year, and were 0.7 percent above DFA’s forecast.   With this information, preliminary* data on Arkansas Taxable Sales for the first quarter of 2010 can be estimated.

After adjustments for the timing of tax collections relative to underlying sales, changes in tax laws, and seasonal patterns in the data, the Arkansas Taxable Sales series serves as a proxy measure for recent conditions in the retail sales sector. 

The new reading on this statistic shows that sales rose by 2.4 percent in the first quarter of 2010 following a 1.0% increase in the fourth quarter of 2009, lifting sales to a level 3.4 percent higher than in the trough that is now evident in third quarter of 2009.

Arkansas Taxable Sales data are constructed by the Institute for Economic Advancement using sales and use tax collections data from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Arkansas Taxable Sales statistics are constructed by the Institute for Economic Advancement using tax collection data from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

The first quarter data indicate a  pattern of recovery in Arkansas retail sales.  With two consecutive quarterly increases, this is a clear indication that positive growth has taken hold in the Arkansas retail sales sector.  Mirroring similar gains that we’ve seen in statistics for retail sales nationwide, this information confirms recent trends suggesting that Arkansas is firmly back in the expansion phase of the business cycle.

Arkansas Taxable Sales data (Excel file)

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

Update on Metro Area Employment and Unemployment

By , May 5, 2010 7:55 PM

Metro area unemployment rates for March 2010 were released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.  Over the first three months of 2010, seasonally-adjusted unemployment rates rose in all of Arkansas’ Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).  The Pine Bluff MSA continued to register the highest unemployment rate in the state: 9.9% in March–slightly above the national average of 9.7%.  All of the state’s other metro areas were below the national average, with the lowest rate being 6.6% in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA.

Sources:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

Nonfarm payroll employment was up sharply in the statewide data for March (see previous post).  For the state’s metro areas, employment was unchanged or up slightly in six of the seven MSAs.  Only Texarkana showed a decline for the month. However, Texarkana had shown increases earlier in the year and it is the only MSA in Arkansas with positive employment growth, on net, over the most recent three months (from December).

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Compared to March of last year, employment in March 2010 was down in all of Arkansas metro areas.  In percentage terms, Jonesboro showed the smallest decline:  down by only -0.6 percent.  Having shown a sharp decline in the first three months of 2010, employment in Hot Springs is down by 3.2 percent from a year earlier.

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