Institute for Economic Advancement

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – April 2015

By , May 27, 2015 10:58 AM

The unemployment rate for Arkansas ticked up by one-tenth of a percent in April to 5.7%.  According to recently revised historical data for the state’s  unemployment rate, it was the first uptick since January 2001.  It should not be too surprising to see a slight increase.  Now that the unemployment rate has fallen closer to sustainable long-run levels, it will become more common to see months where the unemployment rate remains unchanged or displays small (and statistically insignificant) ups and downs.

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

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

As shown in the figures below, this was the second consecutive month in which we’ve seen the number of unemployed increase — up approximately 1,500 in April after an increase of 900 in March.  On the other hand, it was also the 18th consecutive month in which the household survey indicated an increase in the number of employed Arkansans as well.  Since October 2013, the number of employed has increased by over 50,000.  The state’s labor force continues to expand — up by 4,000 in April and up by nearly 42,000 over the past 12 months.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Data from the payroll survey also indicated a strong month of job growth, with nonfarm payroll employment expanding by 6,400 jobs in April.   However, much of the strength in April reflected a bounce-back from weather-related weakness in March.  For the first four months of the year, net employment growth has totaled only 4,200.  Novertheless, following strong gains in the second half of 2014, Arkansas employment in April was up 24,600 from the previous year.

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

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

Reflecting the improvement in weather conditions, construction was the largest single contributor to the employment increase in April — up 2,400 for the month.  Education and Health Services also showed continued growth, with employment expanding by 1,700.  Increases were also notable in Retail Trade and Manufacturing.  Employment in Leisure and Hospitality services was down slightly for the month.  However, that sector continues to be one of the more rapidly-expanding areas of the economy, with a net gain of 15,600 jobs since the employment trough of February 2010.

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 House Prices – 2015:Q1

By , May 26, 2015 4:51 PM

The Federal Housing Finance Agency released new data on home prices this morning.  According to the FHFA’s “Expanded Data Indexes,” house prices in Arkansas declined slightly in the first quarter of 2015, falling by 0.4% from the fourth quarter of 2014.  Compared to a year ago, house prices in Arkansas were up 1.7%.  Nationwide, house prices were up 1.4% for the quarter, and were 5.8% higher than a year before.  Since hitting a trough in the second quarter of 2011, prices have increased by 11.5% in Arkansas and 22.2% nationwide.  The slower rate of appreciation in Arkansas reflects the fact that house prices declined be less then the rest of the nation during the price collapse of 2007-2011.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

The Expanded data indexes are compiled using data from actual sales prices gathered from FannieMae, FreddieMac, FHA and County Property Recorder sources.  For metropolitan areas, FHFA publishes a set of “All-Transactions Indexes” that are based on actual sales prices along with appraisal values from refinancing.  As shown in the chart and table below, home prices in the various metro areas of Arkansas have displayed widely differing patterns.  Fayetteville and Memphis experienced price declines from 2007 to 2011 that were consistent with nationwide averages, but prices in both of those metro areas have shown significant recovery since then.  At the other extreme, prices in Texarkana, Jonesboro, Fort Smith and Little Rock showed little downward movement during the nationwide decline, and have experienced net positive appreciation since 2007.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency.  Seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency. Seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

In the first quarter of 2015, home prices were higher in 5 of 8 metro areas, with declines in Fayetteville, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.  Pine Bluff was the only metro area to have experienced a decline compared to the first quarter of 2014.  Over the 5 years since 2010:Q1, house prices have fallen 6.4% in Pine Bluff and 0.7% in Hot Springs, but are up in the state’s other metro areas.  The highest rate of appreciation has been in Jonesboro, where prices are 8.2% higher than they were five 5 years go.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency.  Seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency. Seasonal adjustment by the Institute for Economic Advancement.

Arkansas Home Sales – March 2015

By , May 20, 2015 3:28 PM

New data from the Arkansas Realtors® Association show another strong month for Arkansas real estate markets, with home sales up 15.8% in March compared to the previous year.  Sales of 2,526 homes represented the highest March sales total since 2007.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Following year-over-year gains in both January and February, total home sales for the first quarter of the year were up by 10.2% compared to the first quarter of 2014.  As shown in the figure below, seasonally adjusted home sales are continuing to follow a steadily rising trend.  The pace of sales has now recovered to well-above the peaks in 2009 and 2010 that were artificially inflated by federal home-buyers’ tax credits.

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

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

Home sales were up among all of the largest counties in the state, with year-over-year gains particularly notable in Craighead County and Sebastian County.    The combined year-over-year increases for the Northwest Arkansas counties of Benton and Washington were 13.8% for March and 11.7% for the first quarter.   The combined totals for four Central Arkansas counties (Pulaski, Faulkner, Saline, and Lonoke) showed increases of 20.4% for the month and 8.5% for the quarter.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

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