Institute for Economic Advancement

Revised Unemployment Statistics for 2015

By , February 29, 2016 12:16 PM

Annual revisions to the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) have been completed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  For Arkansas, the revised data show a lower unemployment rate throughout 2015 than was previously reported.  In particular, the newly revised data eliminate a mysterious surge in the unemployment rate that was originally reported during the late spring months of 2015.  The new numbers show that the Arkansas Unemployment rate stood at 4.7% in December, revised down from 4.8%.

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

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

As shown in the panels below, the revision to the Arkansas unemployment rate is largely attributable to a revised path for the number of unemployed.  The figures also show that the number of employed Arkansans at the beginning of 2015 was revised downward, so that the growth rate of household employment was actually higher than originally reported.

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

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

The newly revised statistics are from the program sometimes referred to as the “household survey.”  Data on nonfarm payroll employment come from an independent survey of employers.  Revisions to the payroll data will be announced on March 14th.   Estimates constructed by the Institute for Economic Advancement suggest that the current level of nonfarm payroll employment for Arkansas will be revised downward by approximately 8 thousand jobs.

FHFA House Prices – 2015:Q4

By , February 25, 2016 4:08 PM

New data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) show continuing appreciation of Arkansas house prices.  As illustrated in the figure below, the FHFA Expanded-Data Index for Arkansas increased in each quarter of 2015.  In the fourth quarter, the index was up 1.1% from the previous quarter, and 3.2% higher than the previous year.  The index for the U.S. — recovering from a significantly sharper decline of 2007-2011 — was up 1.3% for the quarter and 5.6% for the year.

Source:  Federal Housing Finance Agency

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

The expanded data indexes are only available at the state level, but the FHFA publishes All-Transactions indexes that cover metropolitan areas as well.  The table below summarizes recent house-price changes in Arkansas’ eight metro areas.  In the fourth quarter, prices were down in Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.  For the year, prices were down only slightly in Texarkana, but were higher in all other metro areas (as well as the non-metropolitan portions of the state).

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.

House prices in Northwest Arkansas have shown the most rapid appreciation over the past five years, but are recovering from the largest house-price declines in state during the 2007-2011 period.  In fact, the figure below illustrates that most of the state’s metro and non-metro areas suffered only modest declines during the nationwide housing price collapse, and all have shown at least modest appreciation over the most recent two- to five-year period.

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 – November 2015

By , February 4, 2016 4:45 PM

The Arkansas Realtors® Association released their penultimate monthly report for 2015 this morning, showing a total of 2104 homes sold in Arkansas during November.  Home sales typically drop off sharply toward the end of the calendar year, and this year is no exception.  Nevertheless, November’s total was up 4.3% from the previous year.

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

December is always a relatively slow month as well, so the cumulative year-to-date totals reported today provide a good indication of how the year will turn out.  For the first 11 months of the year, home sales were up 9.2% compared to the same period in 2014.

As shown in the chart below, seasonally adjusted data reveal that November’s home sales were somewhat below the recent growth trend.  However, a single month slowdown provides little reason to expect that the steady growth we’ve seen over the past 3 years will abate.  In a forecast presented in early November, we anticipated that 2015 sales growth would end up at close to 9%, and projected a year of double-digit growth for 2016.

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

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

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – December 2015

By , February 3, 2016 4:17 PM

As previously reported, statewide unemployment declined by two-tenths of a percent in December — a result that is mirrored in new statistics for Arkansas’ metropolitan areas.  As shown in the table below, unemployment rates fell in all eight metro areas that include parts of Arkansas.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Over the course of the year, unemployment rates around the state have declined significantly.  From December 2014 to December 2015, changes ranged from -0.4% in Fort Smith to one full percentage point in Hot Springs and Jonesboro.  At the end of the year, unemployment rates were at or below 5% in five of the eight metro areas.

Source:   Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Payroll Employment
Changes in nonfarm payroll employment were mixed.  Employment declined in Jonesboro, Little Rock, and Pine Bluff, but showed strong gains in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs and Memphis.  Compared to a year ago, payroll employment was up in six metro areas, having fallen in Fort Smith and Pine Bluff.  Growth over the past 12 months has been particularly strong in Fayetteville and Jonesboro.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

As shown in the figure below, strong payroll employment growth in Fayetteville and Jonesboro continues a trend that has characterized the entire economic expansion, with the two northern corners of the state experiencing far more rapid growth than the rest of the region.  At the other extreme, employment in Pine Bluff has continued to decline.  At the end of 2015, Pine Bluff payrolls were down 17.5% from pre-recession levels.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Note:  The metro-area payroll data will be subject to the annual benchmark revision process, with revised numbers to be reported in mid-March.  Our estimates of the statewide employment revisions suggest that the updated data will show slower growth among at least some of the state’s metro areas, particularly for the second half of 2014.

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