Institute for Economic Advancement

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – August 2013

By , September 20, 2013 11:03 AM

Another disappointing employment report for Arkansas:  The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services show that unemployment was up again in August, but not enough to raise the unemployment rate from the 7.4% level of July.  Over the first 8 months of 2013, the unemployment rate has crept up by 0.3%, while the number of unemployed has increased by 2,710.  The number of employed from the household survey declined by 5,322 in August, contributing to a net loss of 27,490 since December of 2012.

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

Payroll Survey:
The report on nonfarm payroll employment for Arkansas was no more encouraging.  The net change in employment from July to August was -1,200 (seasonally adjusted).  Employment was lower in most sectors, including a declines of 600 in Construction and 800 in Wholesale Trade.  Two sectors did show month-over-month increases:  Financial Activities (+700) and Manufacturing (+900).  Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen healthy gains in Retail Trade, Education & Health Services, and Transportation & Utilities, but several sectors have seen declines.  Notably, the goods-producing sectors have continued to show net declines.  Compared to August 2012, payroll employment has increase by just 12,200 — approximately 1.0%.

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

The household data and payroll data continue to provide conflicting signals:  As shown in the figure below, payroll employment has continued to trend upward (albeit slowly and irregularly), while the household employment measure has been falling since the beginning of 2012.  It seems likely that the annual benchmark revisions to the payroll data will ultimately be negative, bringing the two employment measures into closer alignment.  With the release of the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages next week, we are likely to see some evidence supporting this conjecture.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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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 – 2013:Q2 (Final)

By , September 17, 2013 11:59 AM

Final data for Arkansas Taxable Sales in the second quarter are now available.  The revisions to the preliminary estimates reported last month were miniscule:  The revised figure for June was only 0.05% lower than the estimate.  As a result, the summary table for Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) and Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) are essentially unchanged from the preliminary version.

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

Preliminary data for July suggest that taxable sales are off to a good start for the third quarter.  Compared to a year earlier, ATS was up over 9% in July.  Month-to-month volatility has recently been high, but the trend shows continuing growth.

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

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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 2013:Q2 (Excel file)

July Home Sales

By , September 13, 2013 10:30 AM

The latest data from the Arkansas Realtors® Association (ARA) confirms that the long-awaited recovery in home sales is underway.  Earlier this week, the ARA reported that sales of new and existing homes in July were up 19.1% from July of 2012.  As shown in the chart below, this year-over-year comparison overstates the trend rate of growth — but not by much.  Among the peak summer months of May, June, and July, last year’s July sales were relatively weak while this year’s sales show a July peak.  Nevertheless, the year-over-year increase for a three-month average was 10.8%.  For the year to date, the ARA data show a 10.7% increase.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Seasonally adjusted data, shown in the next chart, clearly illustrate the rising trend.  During 2011 and 2012, average monthly sales seemed constrained to less than 2,000 per month.  The seasonally-adjusted data show that the  symbolic 2000/month pace has been exceeded every month this year — with the trend accelerating into the busy summer months.

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

Data for individual counties shows that sales increases are not limited to any one metropolitan area, but are widespread.  Among the 8 largest counties (by sales volume), all except Pulaski have shown double-digit growth rates in 2013 (year-to-date figures).  For the central Arkansas counties of Faulkner, Pulaski and Saline combined, the year-over-year increase has been 11.3%.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Typical seasonal patterns suggest that sales will taper-off over the rest of the year.  But given the strong summer sales pace, 2013 total sales will significantly exceed the lackluster figures from 2011 and 2012.

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