Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – August 2015

By , September 18, 2015 10:53 AM

The Arkansas unemployment rate decreased two-tenths of a percent in August, mirroring the decline that had previously been reported on the national level.  At 5.4%, the state’s unemployment rate is nearing pre-recession levels.  The August unemployment drop was attributable to both an increase in the number of employed (+3,910) and a decline in the number of unemployed (-2,490).

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
The data on nonfarm payrolls showed a monthly increase of 1,700 jobs (seasonally adjusted).   Compared to the previous month, employment was down in the goods producing sectors and retail trade.   Employment was up in most service-providing sectors, with Education and Health Services, in particular, continuing to  expand.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Compared to a year earlier, payroll employment in Arkansas is up 26,800.  Job gains over the past 12 months have been fairly broad-based, with the notable exception of Manufacturing.  In fact, Manufacturing employment is still 6,000 jobs lower than at the employment trough of February 2010, and down 35,400 since the onset of the 2008-09 recession.  Overall employment is now 7,200  (0.6%) above pre-recession levels.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

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, can be found hereTable-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2015:Q2

By , September 15, 2015 11:30 AM

After crunching the numbers from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) in the second quarter of 2015 appears to have declined slightly (-0.8%, seasonally adjusted).  Compared to the same time a year earlier, however, ATS was up 3.2%.  A broader measure of spending — Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) — was down just one tenth of a percent from the previous quarter, and up 0.8% from the second quarter of 2014.

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.

Swings in retail gasoline prices have been important for recent quarterly growth rates.  Although gasoline prices have been trending downward for over a year, prices in the second quarter of 2015 were up slightly from earlier in the year.  According to data from the Oil Price Information Service, gasoline prices in Arkansas averaged $2.40 in the second quarter, up from $2.10 in the first quarter.  Combined with data from the state’s motor fuel tax, we calculate that total spending on gasoline was up 12.3% for the quarter, accounting for the relative strength of ATSIG as compared to ATS.  The higher gasoline prices are also likely to have contributed to the slowdown in non-gasoline consumer spending.

Since peaking in June at $2.52/gallon, Arkansas gasoline prices have again resumed their downward trend.  The average price in August was $2.31, and recent data from the AAA Fuel Gauge Report showing the statewide average at under $2.10 ($2.066 as of today’s date).  The declining gasoline prices are likely to suppress total ATSIG spending in the current quarter, but the extra purchasing power available to households should help support non-gasoline spending.  In fact, preliminary monthly data indicate that ATS has been increasing through the summer months, and was up 8.7% in July (compared to July of the previous year).

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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 monthly and quarterly data is available here: Arkansas Taxable Sales 2015:Q2 (Excel file).

 

Arkansas Home Sales – July 2015

By , September 10, 2015 10:56 AM

The latest monthly report from the Arkansas Realtors® Association shows a continuing uptrend in home sales around the state.   Sales of new and existing homes in July were up 9.9% compared to the previous year.  This followed a year-over-year increase of 15% in June.  Typically, the peak sales month of the year occurs in June, July or August.  Given the strength of the June report, it would not have been surprising to see a slight drop-off in July.  However, sales of 3,161 homes in July managed to exceed the 3,113 figure for June.  Cumulatively, over the first 7 months of the year, home sales are up 10.3% compared to 2014.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Seasonally adjusted data shown in the chart below clearly show the upward trend in home sales over the past 3 years.  The early phase of the recovery may have been driven, in part, by demand overhang from the recession and its aftermath.  Over the past 1-1/2 years, on the other hand, we’ve seen a pick up in job growth that has undoubtedly helped to spur increasing home sales.  Another factor behind this summer’s strength in real estate markets is the outlook for interest rates.  Mortgage rates remain near historic lows, but it is anticipated that the Federal Reserve will begin raising rates soon — perhaps as soon as next week.  Some of this summer’s home sales activity might be related to home buyers seeking to finalize their new home purchases before higher mortgage rates materialize.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association; Seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association; Seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

The strength in home sales has been concentrated in the larger metropolitan-area markets.  Northwest Arkansas sales increases have been particularly robust:  Washington and Benton Counties combined showed a year-over-year increase of 20.6% in July.  Among the ten highest-sales counties in the state (table below), there are a handful in which July sales were below a year ago.  However, all ten show increases in year-to-date sales.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

 

Arkansas House Prices – 2015:Q2

By , September 4, 2015 11:09 AM

Recently-released data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) show that Arkansas house prices continued an upward trend during the second quarter of 2015.  Statewide, the FHFA “expanded data” index increased by 1.0% from the first quarter, and was up 2.9% from a year earlier (seasonally adjusted).  By comparison, the national index was up 1.5% quarter-to-quarter, and up 6.2% year-over-year.

Source:   Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

Around the state, metro-area house prices (as measured by all-transactions indexes) were generally up — with the notable exception of Fort Smith.  Volatility in the Fort Smith index masks a longer-term stability, with prices basically flat compared to five years ago.  Among other metro areas, year-over-year increases ranged from 1.7% in Little Rock to 4.9% in Jonesboro.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

Over the past five years, the metro areas with the most rapid rates of appreciation were Fayetteville and Jonesboro, both up 8.5%.  Since reaching a low point in 2011:Q2, house prices in Fayetteville have increased by 14.3%, recovering over half of the losses experienced from the beginning of 2007 through 2011:Q2.  As shown in the chart below, house price changes have varied considerably around the state since the housing market boom peaked around the beginning of 2007.  Prices remain 5% to 10% lower in Fayetteville and Memphis, but are up 10% to 15% in Jonesboro and Texarkana.  As measured by the all-transactions index, the statewide average of house prices is up slightly from 2007 (+0.5%).

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

 

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – July 2015

By , September 1, 2015 12:10 PM

New data on unemployment rates in Arkansas metro areas show continuing downward trends.  From July 2014 through July 2015, the state’s unemployment rate declined by 0.8%, with metro area changes ranging from -0.4% (Fort Smith) to -1.2% (Memphis and Texarkana).

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

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

Seasonally adjusted data indicate month-to-month declines in unemployment in 5 metro areas, with rates unchanged in Hot Springs and Texarkana.  The unemployment rate in Memphis ticked up by one-tenth of a percentage point.

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

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

As shown in the figure below, unemployment rates rose slightly in the early months of the year, peaking in April or May.  With the exception of Memphis, rates have resumed their decline over the past two to three months.  The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for Fayetteville fell below 4.0% for the first time since April 2008.  At the other extreme, unemployment in Pine Bluff has yet to fall below 7.5%.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Data on nonfarm payroll employment (seasonally adjusted) show mixed changes on a month-to-month basis.  Metro areas showing employment losses in July included Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Memphis, and Pine Bluff.  Increases were recorded for Jonesboro, Little Rock, and Texarkana.  Compared to a year ago, employment is up for six of eight metro areas covering parts of Arkansas, with only Fort Smith and Pine Bluff registering year-over-year declines.  The news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that Pine Bluff had the largest year-over-year percentage decline in the nation.  A rather sharp monthly drop in Hot Springs dropped the employment total for that metro area back below pre-recession levels, after having briefly moved into positive territory in June.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Maps from AADO Presentation

By , August 31, 2015 8:00 AM

As part of my presentation to the Association of Arkansas Development Organizations (AADO) on August 26, I presented a series of maps showing demographic and economic variables for Arkansas’ 75 counties.  Some general observations about the maps are discussed in a commentary in this week’s Arkansas BusinessFinding Patterns in Counties’ Statistics (Michael Pakko Commentary).

The maps and correlations among variables are available here:  Pakko-August2015-maps.pdf.

The entire set of slides from the presentation is available here:  Pakko-August2015-pdf.

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – July 2015

By , August 21, 2015 10:34 AM

The unemployment rate in Arkansas declined by 0.1% in July, bringing the rate back down to where it was in March — 5.6%.  The national unemployment rate in July was 5.3%.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Arkansas’ labor force contracted slightly in July as the number of unemployed dropped (-1,300) by more than the increase in the number of employed (+1,000).  July’s small labor force contraction followed 14 consecutive months of increase.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payrolls expanded by 1,200 in July (seasonally adjusted).  Employment in the construction sector showed a particularly sharp increase for the month (+1,800), bringing the 12-month cumulative growth in that sector to 6,800 jobs.  Professional and Business services also showed a robust gain (+1,000).  Several sectors saw job losses in July, including Manufacturing and Wholesale Trade.  Overall, payroll employment over the past 12 months has increased by 28,400 jobs — a growth rate of 2.4%.

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

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

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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.

Arkansas Home Sales – June 2015

By , August 13, 2015 10:37 AM

The Arkansas Realtors® Association announced this morning that home sales in June totaled 3,113, an increase of 15.0% from the previous year, and the highest single-month sales total since May 2007.  The June increase brings the year-to-date total for 2015 to 14,716, 8.5% higher than the January-June total for 2014.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

After seasonally adjusting the data and aggregating to quarterly totals, the upward trend over the past three years is clear — shown in the figure below.  The second quarter of 2015 represents the third consecutive quarter for which year-over-year growth rates have exceeded 10%.  The data from the first half of 2015 suggest that home sales are on track to finish the year with an annual increase of nearly 10%, as we forecasted last October.

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

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

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – June 2015

By , July 29, 2015 12:53 PM

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that unemployment rates in Arkansas metro areas are all down from a year ago, but the pace of decline has slowed.  On a year-over-year basis, the state-wide not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has fallen by 0.6%.  In six of the eight metro areas that include parts of Arkansas, rates have fallen by more than that.

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

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

On a month-to-month basis, seasonally-adjusted metropolitan area estimates show the unemployment declining in all eight metro areas in June.  In six of the eight metro areas, the June decline was larger than the 0.1% drop in the statewide data.  Unemployment rates are now at 5% or lower in four of the state’s metro areas.

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

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

As shown in the figure below, the seasonally adjusted estimates rose somewhat in the earlier part of this year, particularly in metro areas with relatively high unemployment rates.  Hence, unemployment rates in those areas are unchanged or up slightly compared to their low points earlier this year.  In the four metro areas with the lowest unemployment rates, however, the trend continues downward.  Where unemployment rates are at or below 5%, we should not expect significant further reductions.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment rose in June for six of the eight metro areas, but was down in Fort Smith and Pine Bluff.  Those two metro areas are also the only two that have experienced declines over the past 12 months as well.  According to the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pine Bluff retains the dubious distinction of having the largest percentage decline in employment nationwide.  On a more positive note, a 1.3% employment increase in Hot Springs made that metro area the fourth in the state to break the barrier of having higher employment now than before the 2008-09 recession.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

The figure below illustrates the wide range of payroll employment growth since the onset of the recession (smoothed, by taking quarterly averages of the monthly figures).  In Jonesboro, employment is nearly 13% higher than it was in the fourth quarter of 2007.  At the other extreme, employment in Pine Bluff has fallen by more than 16% over the same period.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – June 2015

By , July 21, 2015 11:30 AM

The unemployment rate ticked down to 5.7% in June from a revised 5.8% in May.  The rate has been hovering in range of 5.6% to 5.8% since last fall.  The unemployment rate had come down rapidly during 2013 and 2014, but it is not surprising that its descent has slowed as we get closer to full-employment.

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

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

The underlying components of the unemployment rate, derived from a household survey, showed slightly improving conditions.  In particular, the number of unemployed Arkansans was down slightly in June, following three consecutive monthly increases.  The number of employed was up for a 20th consecutive month, and has increased by over 45,000 over the past 12 months.  As a result, the labor force continued to expand in June.  Since April 2014, the Arkansas labor force has expanded by nearly 44,000, offsetting about 60% of the decline that we saw from November 2011 through April 2014.

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

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

Payroll Employment
As is always the case in June, the monthly figures on payroll employment were influenced by predictable seasonal factors.  In particular, the not-seasonally adjusted data showed sharp declines in Education Services and Government, both reflecting summer break at educational institutions.  Seasonally adjusted data for these sectors were flat, however, reflecting the fact that the May to June change was typical.  Overall, the not seasonally adjusted figures showed a decline of 3,100 jobs, but after seasonal adjustment total nonfarm payroll employment was up by 1,800.

A rather sharp increase in Construction employment in June (+1,700, seasonally adjusted) was welcome news.  Employment growth in that sector had sagged earlier in the year, but recent growth suggests that the earlier setbacks were, in fact, largely related to poor weather conditions.  The only significant weakness in the monthly employment figures was in Leisure and Hospitality services.

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

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

Compared to June 2014, payroll employment is up by 23,300.  Employment has increased by 61,200 since the employment trough of February 2010, now stands 3,800 (0.3%) above it’s pre-recession level.

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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.

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