Institute for Economic Advancement

Revised Unemployment Rates for Arkansas

By , February 28, 2017 4:24 PM

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has completed its annual review and revision of Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) for 2012-2016.   The data revisions incorporate updated population controls from the U.S. Census Bureau, revisions from other original data sources, and model re-estimation.

For Arkansas, the revisions were not surprising.   The originally published data showed a sharp increase in household employment over the first three months of 2016 — a reading about which we were very skeptical from the outset.   After revision, the unprecedented surge in employment and labor force was eliminated completely.  The new data show more robust growth in employment over most of 2015 and a much smaller upswing/downswing during 2016.  The new data also show that the number of unemployed was lower than previously reported for much of 2015, with a smaller decline in the number of unemployed during the first part of 2016.

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

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

As a result of the revisions, Arkansas’ unemployment rate now shows a more rapid decline during 2015, followed by a more stable rate during 2016.  The original data had indicated that the Arkansas unemployment rate declined to as low as 3.8% in May 2016, drifting back up to 4.0% toward the end of the year.  After revision, the unemployment rate changed little over the year, starting at 4.1% then dropping to 4.0% for most of the rest of the year.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Today’s data revisions also included the official annual averages for unemployment.  The report noted at least three distinctions for Arkansas:

1.  From 2015 to 2016 (annual averages), the Arkansas unemployment rate declined 1.1%, from 5.1% to 4.0%.  Massachusetts and South Carolina were the only states to show a larger decline (-1.2%).

2.  For the year, Arkansas unemployment rate of 4.0% can be considered statistically significantly lower than the U.S. average of 4.9%.

3.  Arkansas was one of only 14 states to show a statistically significant increase in the employment-population ratio (up 0.7 percentage points, from 55.1% to 55.8%)

 

Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2016

By , February 13, 2017 4:25 PM

Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) increased 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2016 (seasonally adjusted), and were up 1.8% from a year earlier.

With gasoline prices little changed, an increase in gallons sold pushed gasoline expenditures up 9.9% for the quarter.  As a result, Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) rose 0.9%.  Compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, ATSIG was up 2.2%.

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

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

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

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

Both ATS and ATSIG had declined over the first half of 2016, but recovered lost ground in the third and fourth quarters.  On average, 2016 was a year of slowing growth in taxable sales.  Not including gasoline, Arkansas Taxable Sales were up 1.5% for the year.  With gasoline prices down from $2.18 in 2015 to $1.91 in 2016, expenditures on gasoline were down 8.2%.  Consequently, ATSIG rose only 1.0% for the year.

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

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

# # #

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 2016:Q4 (Excel file).

Arkansas Home Sales – December 2016

By , February 7, 2017 1:48 PM

The Arkansas Realtors® Association has released home sales information for December 2016, completing the data for calendar year 2016.  Sales for the month totaled 2,731, up 8.3% from the previous December.  Total sales for the year were 34,033, up 8.1% from 2015.

Source:  Arkansas Realtors® Association

Source: Arkansas Realtors® Association

The rising trend in home sales has now run more than four full years.  As shown in the chart below, quarterly seasonally-adjusted data display robust growth since at least the beginning of 2013.  Seasonally adjusted sales in the fourth quarter of 2016 were 8,870, breaking through the pre-recession sales level of approximately 8,500/quarter.

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

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

Last November, our forecast for home sales in 2016 was 33,600, so the final figures for the year slightly outpaced expectations.  Sales in 2017 are expected to continue their robust growth, with our forecast calling for over 36,000 home sales and a year-over-year growth rate of 8.4%.  This outlook is conditioned on a continued slow pace of rising interest rates.  If the Federal Reserve raises rates more aggressively than presently expected, a slowdown in home sales might take hold before the end of 2017.

Arkansas GDP – 2016:Q3

By , February 2, 2017 3:35 PM

The Bureau of Economic Analysis announced this morning that Arkansas real GDP grew at a 2.3% annual rate in the third quarter of 2016.  While this growth rate is roughly in line with prevailing trends, Arkansas’ growth lagged behind the nationwide rate of 3.5%, ranking #41 among the 50 states.

GDP-map-2016Q3

Over the past four quarters, Arkansas’ growth rate has averaged 2.1%, compared to 1.6% for the entire U.S.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

As shown in the table below, the patterns of growth rates across sectors are quite similar for Arkansas and the U.S.  Growth was relatively strong in Utilities, Finance and Insurance, and Administrative services.  Another sector to show encouraging growth was Durable Goods Manufacturing.  Arkansas’ agricultural output contracted in the third quarter; however, agricultural output shows substantial volatility from quarter to quarter.  Output in the mining sector was down across the board, reflecting continued weakness in oil and gas prices.

Source:  U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – December 2016

By , February 1, 2017 3:47 PM

Unemployment rates in Arkansas metro areas were generally lower in December than in November.  Although the raw not-seasonally adjusted figures show increases in all eight metro areas that include parts of Arkansas, the end of year is typically associated with seasonal upticks in unemployment associated with academic breaks.  After seasonal adjustment, unemployment rates declined Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro and Pine Bluff.  Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates were unchanged in Hot Springs and Little Rock, while increasing slightly in Memphis and Texarkana.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Compared to year earlier, Decembers metro unemployment rates continued to show significant declines.  From December 2015 through December 2016, unemployment rates declined by 0.1% (Texarkana) to 1.2% (Pine Bluff).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm Payroll Employment in December was up 0.7% in Jonesboro and 0.4% in Fort Smith, but was lower in 5 of the state’s metro areas.  Compared to December 2015 employment was higher in most metro areas, with particularly large gains in Jonesboro.  Tow metro areas, Pine Bluff and Texarkana showed year-over-year declines in employment.  Those two metro areas also showed longer-term declines, with employment lower than the post-recession trough point of February 2010.  Five of the state’s eight metro areas have yet to reach pre-recession (December 2007) employment levels.  Eight years after the onset of the 2008-09 recession, only Little Rock, Fayetteville and Jonesboro have shown net gains.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

 

 

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