Metro Area Employment & Unemployment – October 2012

By , November 29, 2012 11:40 AM

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that October unemployment rates were down from a year ago in 329 of the nation’s 372 metropolitan areas.  All of Arkansas’ metro areas are included in this total.  As shown in the table below, year-over-year changes in unemployment rates (not seasonally adjusted) ranged from -0.3% in Jonesboro to -1.3% in Texarkana.

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

Monthly changes in smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates for October were mixed.   Unemployment rates were unchanged in Fayetteville, Hot Springs, and Little Rock.  Rates ticked up by one tenth of a percent in Fort Smith, Jonesboro, and Memphis.  Pine Bluff’s unemployment rate rose by 0.2% and Texarkana’s declined by 0.2%.  Four of the eight metro areas had unemployment rates lower than the statewide average of 7.2%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Payroll Data
Nonfarm payroll employment in October was unchanged in Fort Smith, Hot Springs and Memphis.  The state’s other metro areas saw fairly sizable increases.  Employment was up 1.0% in Fayetteville and Texarkana, up 1.2% in Little Rock, up 1.4% in Pine Bluff and up 0.8% in Jonesboro.  Each of these increases exceeded the statewide growth rate for the month (0.4%).   Employment was higher than a year earlier in most of the state’s metro areas, with the exceptions of Fort Smith and Hot Springs.

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

Arkansas Home Prices – 2012:Q3

By , November 28, 2012 12:35 PM

Yesterday’s report on home sales included data showing that average home prices were up 7.8% from October 2011 through October 2012.  On a year-to-date basis, average prices were up 10.4%.  Average sales prices are not necessarily a good measure of overall home values — they sometimes simply reflect changes in the mix of homes that are presently selling.   If higher-price home sales are strong and lower-price home sales are lagging, we would see an increase in the average sales price even if overall home values are unchanged.

In this case, however, the realtors’ sales price data is corroborated by the latest information on home values from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).  The FHFA “Purchase-Only Index” for Arkansas shows home prices up 1.6% in the third quarter, and up 7.1% from a year earlier.  For the nation as a whole, home prices were up 2.0% in the third quarter — 3.3% higher than the previous year.  As information accumulates, it is becoming increasingly apparent that home prices have bottomed out and are are now showing at least modest rates of appreciation.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

The FHFA home price indexes are constructed using sales price information from all mortgages processed by FannieMae and FreddieMac.  In order to expand the coverage to include other mortgages, the FHFA has recently introduced an “Expanded Index” that also includes information from county recorder offices.  The latest information from this data series also shows a turnaround in home prices.  In the third quarter, the expanded index data shows prices up 1.2% in Arkansas and up 1.0% for the U.S.  Compared to the third quarter of 2011, prices were up 5.4% in Arkansas and 3.4% nationwide.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

In order to accumulate enough sales-price data to provide reliable indicators for metro-area home prices, the FHFA also constructs a set of “All Transactions” indexes that include information from actual home sales as well as appraisals associated with refinancing.  Recent data for this set of statistics show smaller home price increases — perhaps because appraisers have recently been providing relatively conservative estimates of home values.  Nevertheless, the overall pattern is similar, with prices appearing to have reached a trough, if not yet a clear upturn.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

The all-transactions data shown above also includes price data for the state’s largest metro areas, Little Rock and Fayetteville.  The distinctiveness of local market conditions is evident in this comparison.  Prices in Northwest Arkansas have followed a pattern similar to the national average, while those in Little Rock have shown relatively small changes over time.  As shown in the table below, home prices in the state’s other metro areas have shown differing patterns.  In the third quarter, the all-transactions indexes rose in all metro areas except Little Rock (which was essentially unchanged).  Compared to a year earlier, prices are higher in five metro areas, and are down only for Hot Springs, Little Rock, and Memphis.


Arkansas Home Sales – October 2012

By , November 27, 2012 12:17 PM

A new report from the Arkansas Realtors Association shows October home sales up 5.9% from the previous year. Home sales typically trend downward during the autumn months of the year, but the pace of the decline can differ from year to year.  As shown in the chart below, sales dropped off sharply from September to October 2011, but dropped only a little from this year’s September sales total.  Hence, today’s report showing a year-over-year increase cannot be viewed in isolation from last month’s report that showed September sales down sharply from the previous year.  Combining this month’s report with last month’s report, sales for the September-October 2012 were down 0.6% from the same period in 2011.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

After removing the pronounced seasonal component of the home sales data, the trend during 2012 has been flat — with sales down just slightly from the previous year.  In fact, today’s report showed that year-to-date home sales were down 2.4% from the 2011 pace.  November and December are usually two of the slower months of the year, so it is unlikely that sales during the remainder of 2012 will have much of an impact on annual totals.  When all the data are in, we continue to expect that 2012 home sales will be down slightly from the previous year.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association; Seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement

Arkansas Employment & Unemployment – October 2012

By , November 20, 2012 12:22 PM

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Workforce Services show the Arkansas unemployment rate unchanged in October.  The reported uptick from 7.1% to 7.2% was essentially a rounding error (literally — taken to the next decimal place, the rate changed from 7.14% to 7.16%).  Since April of this year, the Arkansas unemployment rate has been stuck in a range of 7.1% to 7.3%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

When the unemployment rate was declining in late 2011 and early 2012, total household employment and labor force participation were rising.  Since April, however, both measures have been trending downward with the number of employed falling by 15,700.  Nevertheless, household employment remains over 10,000 higher than a year ago, and is up over 20,000 compared to July 2011.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
Today’s report also showed that nonfarm payroll employment increased by 4,400 in October (seasonally adjusted).  Employment in goods-producing sectors was down 1,500 jobs, but service-providing sectors added 5,900 jobs.  Increases were prominent in Wholesale Trade, Retail Trade, and Leisure & Hospitality Services.  Sizable declines were registered in Professional & Business Services (primarily Administrative & Support Services) and in Construction.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The current data are showing a year-over-year increase in payroll employment of 13,800 jobs, with strong growth in Leisure & Hospitality Services and Education & Health Services.  As discussed in a recent post, however, the payroll data for 2011 and early 2012 are expected to be revised upward significantly.  As shown in the figure below, the expected revisions raise the path of payroll employment growth by over 13,000 by the third quarter of 2012.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

When the revisions are complete, the largest single-month change will be for October 2011–up by 19,000.  With recent monthly observations expected to be revised upward by only 13,600, the revised data will actually show a smaller year-over-year change in employment than currently-published data.  As shown in the table below, the revised data are expected to show a net employment gain of 8,400 from October 2011 through October 2012.  The expected revisions have more significant implications for longer-term measures of employment growth:  The data revisions suggest job growth of 33,800 since February 2010, compared to an increase of 20,200 using currently-published data (see table above).  With recent job gains and expected data revisions, Arkansas is now only 24,000 jobs short of re-attaining the state’s pre-recession level of employment (as of December 2007).

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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, are available hereTable – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2012:Q3 (Preliminary*)

By , November 5, 2012 3:08 PM

With the release of the General Revenue Report for October, we now have enough information to calculate preliminary figures for Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) for the third quarter of 2012.  The sales tax collection figures dropped fairly sharply in June, and have shown little little sign of growth since then.  As a result, Arkansas Taxable Sales are down 3.4% in the third quarter, following a slight quarterly decline (-0.5%) in the second quarter of the year (seasonally adjusted).  Compared to the same period last year, third-quarter ATS was down 1.0%.

According to data from the Oil Price Information Service, monthly average gasoline prices in Arkansas have varied in a range of $3.22 to $3.74 per gallon so far in 2012.  On a quarterly average basis, however, gasoline prices have shown little movement this year.  Data on gasoline sales from the state’s Motor Fuels Tax section indicate a small increase in the third quarter (+3.3%) following a sharp decline in the second quarter.  As a result, Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) was down 2.5% for the quarter, and down 0.9% from the third quarter of 2012.

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Institute for Economic Advancement

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Institute for Economic Advancement

The weakness of sales and use tax collections over the past three to four months has been unexpected, and at least somewhat puzzling.  Other sources of state revenue–notably the individual and corporate income taxes–have been showing robust year-over-year gains.  The second annual sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping may be partially responsible, but the magnitude of that effect is unlikely to account for the overall weakness in sales tax collections in the third quarter.  Growth in online shopping might also be expected to suppress sales tax collections, but that trend represents a long, gradual process and does not seem to be a likely candidate to explain third quarter growth specifically.  The recent weakness in sales tax collections does coincide with a slowdown in employment growth and unexpected weakness in home sales, but the information is too preliminary to conclude that we’re experiencing a broad-based economic slowdown in the second half of 2012.

At this point, the third quarter data are incomplete.  Final figures on sales and use tax collections are not yet available, nor are the data for gasoline sales in September (the gasoline component of ATSIG in this preliminary report is includes September figures that are derived from model-based estimates).  The data will be updated here on the pages of the Arkansas Economist when final information becomes available.

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Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) is calculated by the Institute for Economic Advancement to serve as a timely proxy for Arkansas retail sales. The series is derived from sales and use tax data, adjusting for the relative timing of tax collections and underlying sales, changes in tax laws, and seasonal patterns in the data.  Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) incorporates data on the state motor fuel tax and gasoline prices from the Oil Price Information Service.

A spreadsheet of the data is available here: Arkansas Taxable Sales Data 2012:Q3 (Excel file)

* Data are preliminary until the release of the DFA report, Arkansas Fiscal Notes for October 2012, and will be updated when information becomes available.

Metro Area Employment & Unemployment – September 2012

By , November 2, 2012 3:47 PM

A new report on employment and unemployment in the nation’s metropolitan areas came out earlier this week.  It showed that unemployment rates were down from a year earlier in 345 of the 372 metro areas.  In Arkansas, the changes from a year ago ranged from -0.8% in Fort Smith to -1.7% in Pine Bluff.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

From August to September, the jobless rate fell 0.2% in Arkansas and 0.3% nationwide.  Arkansas’ metro areas generally saw declines for the month as well.  The smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates in the table below show lower rates in Hot Springs, Little Rock, Memphis, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.  Unemployment rates were unchanged in Fayetteville and Jonesboro, but the rate ticked up 0.1% in Fort Smith.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Payroll Employment
September figures on payroll employment suggest a weaker job-market picture than the results of the household survey.   Statewide employment was down 0.2% for the month, with both Fayetteville and Little Rock showing similar declines.  Employment dropped even more sharply in Texarkana, Pine Bluff and especially Jonesboro.  Fort Smith and Hot Springs, on the other hand, saw welcome improvement in the monthly employment figures.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Since employment hit a statewide trough in February 2010, most of the state’s metro areas have seen at least a partial recovery from the sharp declines of the recession.  Three metro areas — Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Texarkana — actually have higher employment levels now than at the onset of the recession.   In contrast, Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, and Fort Smith have all seen continued declines in employment since the February 2010 turning-point.

The metro area employment data are subject to the same benchmark revision process as the statewide totals.  Based on estimates of how the revisions will affect Arkansas employment in general, the data for metro area job growth are likely to see upward revisions, particularly for late 2011 and the first part of 2012.  We’ll be presenting some estimates of those expected effects in an upcoming post here on the Arkansas Economist.

Arkansas Home Sales – September 2012

By , November 2, 2012 12:34 PM

On Monday–just one day before the Arkansas Economic Forecast Conference–the Arkansas Realtors® Association (ARA) released home sales data for September.  Total sales for the month, 1971, differed from the projection embedded in the Arkansas forecast by only 18 homes.  Consequently, the new data required no real adjustment to the forecasts.  As shown in the two figures below, home sales have shown little growth this year compared to 2011.  For the first 9 months of the year, ARA reports that total sales are down 0.5%.

The peak summer sales season has passed, so home sales over the remainder of the year are unlikely to have any substantial impact on this year-to-year comparison.  The forecast presented on Tuesday anticipates that home sales will end the year essentially unchanged (-0.1%) from the 2011 totals.  With record-low mortgage rates, home prices starting to show some upward momentum, and employment steadily improving, some rebound in home sales is expected in 2013.  The forecast anticipates growth of 5.9%.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association; Seasonally adjusted by the Institute for Economic Advancement

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