Arkansas Economic Development Institute

Metro Area Unemployment & Employment – March 2014

By , April 29, 2014 2:49 PM

Unemployment rates were lower in March than a year earlier in all of Arkansas’ metropolitan areas.  With the annual revisions now complete, estimates of metro unemployment rates for late 2012 and early 2013 are now generally reported to be 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points higher than previously published.  Consequently, the newly-published unemployment rates are, in some cases, not much lower than the rates initially reported a year ago.  But with the revised statistics, year-over-year declines in unemployment range from 0.3% in Fayetteville to 1.2% in Fort Smith and Memphis.  Over the same period, the statewide unemployment rate declined by 0.5%.

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

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

Smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates for March show monthly declines in seven of eight metro areas in Arkansas, with Fayetteville’s rate unchanged from February to March.  The largest monthly declines were in Hot Springs and Texarkana.

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

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

The figure below shows time-series for the smoothed seasonally-adjusted estimates.  Unemployment rates have declined substantially in all of Arkansas’ metro areas over the past 3 to 6 months.  The largest declines were generally in metro areas with the highest unemployment rates.  Since September 2013, rates in Memphis, Hot Springs and Fort Smith declined by a full percentage point or more.  As of March, all metro areas except Memphis and Pine Bluff had unemployment rates below 7%.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased in four of eight Arkansas metro areas in March.  Employment declined for the month in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, and Hot Springs, and was unchanged in Pine Bluff.  The largest gain was in Texarkana, where a 1.5% increase offset losses from the previous 11 months.  Compared to a year ago, employment was up in six metro areas, with the largest increase in Jonesboro (+3.5%).  Compared to pre-recession levels, employment is higher in only two metro areas:  Fayetteville and Jonesboro.  Statewide, employment remains 1.5% below its level in December 2007.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Regional Price Parities and Income – New Data for 2012

By , April 24, 2014 4:53 PM

When the 2013 data on state personal income were recently released, we noted that per capita income in Arkansas was approximately 81% of the national average — essentially unchanged from the previous year.  But when it comes to purchasing power, incomes in Arkansas imply a higher standard of living than suggested by the 81% figure.

This morning, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released their first official set of statistics on Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas. (Experimental data had previously been released for years prior to 2012, see here and here).  The data confirmed that the cost of living is significantly lower in Arkansas than elsewhere in the U.S.  The overall price parity figure for Arkansas was 87.6, implying that prices were approximately 12½% lower than the nationwide average in 2012.   Adjusting incomes for this difference in the cost of living, Arkansas real incomes have a purchasing power that is 92.6% of the U.S. average.

As shown in the figure below, the 2012 statistics showed Arkansas to be the second-lowest cost state in the nation.

Source:  Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Regional price parities are generally lower in non-metropolitan areas than in metropolitan areas, and tend to be higher in the larger metro areas.  Differences in goods prices tend not to vary geographically as much as prices for services, and much of the regional variation in prices is driven by differences in rent costs.  The table below illustrates these patterns for Arkansas, breaking down prices of goods and services for metro- and non-metro areas of the state.   In the non-metro portions of the state, prices are generally 15% lower than the national average, led by rental costs that are just over half the U.S. mean.  The most expensive areas of the state are Memphis, Little Rock, and Fayetteville, each with an overall price parity exceeding 90.0.  Among metro areas, Jonesboro has the lowest cost of living.  In fact, today’s announcement from the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed Jonesboro to be fourth on the list of the most inexpensive metro areas in the nation.

Source:   Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

 

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – March 2014

By , April 18, 2014 1:03 PM

The unemployment rate in Arkansas dropped 2-tenths of 1 percent in March, falling to 6.9%. Today’s reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Workforce Services represented the seventh consecutive month in which the number of the state’s unemployed declined and the number employed increased.  Since August of last year, the number of unemployed has fallen by over 10,000 and the number of employed has increased by 16,000.  With the unemployment rate below 7% for the first time since January 2009, the unemployment rate is now only 2-tenths of a percent higher than the nationwide average.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
February payroll employment totals were revised downward by 2,200, but the March figures were up 1,200 from the revised level.  Since August 2013, payroll employment has increased by 17,000.  As shown in the table below, employment increased in every non-government service sector in March.  In the not-seasonally adjusted data reported by the Department of Workforce services, construction and manufacturing were also up for the month, but those gains were attributable to typical spring rebound effects.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Compared to a year ago, payroll employment is up 12,900, with increases in nearly every sector.  Total employment remains 17,800 below pre-recession levels.

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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, can be found hereTable-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Metro Area Employment & Unemployment – February 2014

By , April 9, 2014 5:31 PM

New data on metro area employment and unemployment came out this morning, covering February 2014.  Although unemployment data included revised statistics for February 2013, the fully revised series were still not available (nor were the revised figures for smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates).  The full series of revised data are scheduled to be released April 18.

In the meantime, the new unemployment data show a similar pattern to the figures recently released for January.  Specifically, unemployment rates for February 2013 were revised upward for all of the state’s metro areas, with the revisions ranging from +0.2% to +0.4%.   But compared to these upwardly-revised rates from February 2013, unemployment rates in February 2014 were down in all 8 metro areas.  The largest year-over-year declines were recorded for Fort Smith (-1.4%) and Memphis (-1.1%).  Smaller declines were reported for Pine Bluff and Texarkana.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

From January to February, nonfarm payroll employment was up in four of the state’s metro areas (Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Memphis, and Texarkana), unchanged  in three (Fayetteville, Little Rock, and Pine Bluff), and declined in Fort Smith.  Compared to February 2013, payroll employment was higher in all areas except Pine Bluff and Texarkana.  The largest year-over-year percentage gains were for Hot Springs (+2.9%) and Jonesboro (+2.7%).  Fayetteville and Jonesboro remain the only metro areas in the state that have higher employment now than pre-recession levels.

MSA-NFPE-0214-tab

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2013:Q4 (Final)

By , April 3, 2014 10:52 AM

The final figures for Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS)  in December 2013 were slightly lower than anticipated.  As a result, the fourth quarter growth rates for ATS and the expanded version–Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG)–ended up being lower than we originally reported.

In the fourth quarter, ATS declined by 0.5%, following a 0.8% decline in the third quarter.  Including gasoline, sales declined by 0.9% in the fourth quarter.  Compared to the fourth quarter of 2013, ATS was up 1.8% and ATSIG was up 0.7%.  Over the same four-quarter period, inflation averaged around 1.0% (PCE price index) to 1.2% (CPI).  As a result, real (inflation adjusted) ATSIG declined over the course of the year and real ATS rose by less than 1%.

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

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

Newly-released data for the first two months of 2014 show continuing weakness in January, but a sharp increase in February.  Compared to February 2013, the preliminary figures show increases of 7.4% for ATS and 6.1% for ATSIG.

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

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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:Q4 (Excel file)

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