June data for metro area employment and unemployment came out earlier this week (see Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment Summary from the BLS). According to the raw numbers—not seasonally adjusted—unemployment rates were unchanged or higher in each of the state’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). However, June is typically a month in which unemployment ticks upward for purely seasonal reasons. One factor: teachers and students are off for the summer, and students in particular are reported as being unemployed if they are seeking, but fail to find summer jobs.**
After accounting for these recurrent patterns, seasonally adjusted statistics paint a much brighter picture. Unemployment rates fell in every one of the state’s MSAs. In many cases, the declines were substantial.
Employment statistics for June (seasonally adjusted by the BLS) showed that payrolls fell in most of Arkansas’ MSAs. Employment was down by 0.1% in Fayetteville, down 0.9% in Fort Smith, down 0.6% in Little Rock, down 0.4% in Memphis and down 1.1% in Pine Bluff. Employment was unchanged in Jonesboro, but was up by 0.3% in Hot Springs and up 0.2% in Texarkana.
Cumulative job losses in the state’s MSAs since the start of the recession have varied considerably. The chart below shows the percentage decline for each MSA since December 2007.
Jonesboro has lost the fewest jobs: total losses reached a peak of 2.2% in April but have recovered over the past two months. Similarly, Texarkana has come back from a cumulative loss of 3.3% in December of last year to a total loss of only 1.2% as of June. Hot Springs losses totalled 6.7% in April, but have bounced back to within 3.8% of the December 2007 level. Employment in the remaining MSAs is at or near recent low points, having yet shown little sign of recovery.
# # #
**The June 2010 issue of Arkansas Labor Market, from the Department of Workforce Services, includes a feature article describing some of the reasons that employment data show seasonal fluctuations.