Institute for Economic Advancement

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – February 2017

By , March 27, 2017 1:23 PM

The February state employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was a strong report for Arkansas overall.  The headline statistic was another decline in the state’s unemployment rate, down to 3.7%.  That represents a new record low for Arkansas’ unemployment rate, and is one full percentage point lower than the U.S. unemployment rate for February.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The underlying data from the household survey showed that the number of unemployed Arkansans declined by over one thousand, while the number employed rose nearly 2,500.  After drifting downward for the past 10 months, the labor force increased by 1,346 in February.

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

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

With the Arkansas unemployment rate hitting new record lows, it is useful to note that changes in labor force participation rates have complicated the interpretation of the unemployment statistics.  When the state’s unemployment rate was at a cyclical low of around 5% before the 2008-09 recession, the labor force participation rate in Arkansas was as high as 64%.  The participation rate has fallen sharply since that time and is currently near 58%.  That is, the fraction of the state’s population that is employed or even looking for work now has fallen by around 5-6% over the past decade.  If the workers how have dropped out of the labor force were to be considered officially “unemployed,” the current unemployment rate would be approximately 12%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment rose sharply in February, up by 6,100 (seasonally adjusted*).  The percentage increase for the month (o.5%) was the second-fastest growth rate in the nation (Montana and Nebraska saw increases of 0.6%).  Moreover, the employment total for January was revised upward by nearly 2,000 jobs.

Job growth was distributed across a wide range of sectors.  Goods-producing sectors, in particular, had a very strong month, with Mining and Logging, Construction and Manufacturing all posting gains.  On the service-providing side, Professional & Business Services and Education & Health Services continued to expand at a healthy pace.

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

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

Over the past 12 months, Arkansas payrolls have expanded by 16,300 — a growth pace of about 1.3%.  Over the same period, U.S. job growth has been around 1.6%.

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.

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – January 2017

By , March 20, 2017 4:42 PM

The latest release on metro area unemployment rates included only selected data:  Revisions to historical data and seasonal factors are in progress and will be included in next month’s report.  For now, only the not-seasonally adjusted data are available.  As shown in the following figure, unemployment rates vary considerably across Arkansas metro areas.  Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Little Rock have unemployment rates below the statewide average of 4.2%, while the remaining metro areas have rates that are above the average.

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

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

From January 2016 to January 2017, unemployment rates declined sharply in most of the state’s metro areas, with the statewide rate declining by one-half of a percentage point.  Two exceptions were Memphis and Texarkana, which experienced increases in unemployment rates over the 12-month period.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Changes in nonfarm payroll employment were mixed across metro areas.  One-month changes ranged from Hot Springs (+1.6%) to Fort Smith (-1.4%).  Compared to January 2016, employment was higher in five of the eight metro areas, but was lower in Fort Smith and Texarkana.

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

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

The latest report included annual benchmark revisions to the payroll employment time series.  The underlying not-seasonally adjusted data were revised back to April of 2015, with seasonal factors revised back five years.  The revisions are summarized in the table below and displayed in the accompanying set of charts.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – January 2017

By , March 13, 2017 6:05 PM

Today’s state employment report featured a new record low unemployment rate for Arkansas, 3.8%.  Previously published figures had shown a 3.8% unemployment rate back in May of 2016, but recent data revisions eliminated that transitory dip in the data.  With the latest downtick, Arkansas’ unemployment rate in January was a full percentage point lower than the national average.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Underlying the unemployment rate itself, the number of unemployed dropped by 2,098 in January, while the number of employed increased by 823.  On net, therefore, the labor force contracted by 1,275 for the month.

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

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

Payroll Data
Nonfarm payroll employment declined by 4,300 in January.  In a reversal of typical patterns, goods-producing sectors added jobs in January, while service-providing sectors shed jobs during the month.  Construction and Manufacturing showed increases of 300 and 700 workers, respectively.  Meanwhile, employment in service-providing sectors was down by 5,300.  The declines were broadly based, with sectors losing jobs including Wholesale Trade, Transportation and Utilities, Information Services, Professional and Business Services, and Leisure and Hospitality.

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

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

Compared to a year ago, total employment is up by 11,300.  After data revisions (see below), growth in Manufacturing employment is looking more healthy, up by 2,300 over the past 12 months.  The bulk of job growth is taking place in key service sectors, Education and Health Services up 6,800, Professional and business services up 300, and Other Services up 2,100.

Revisions to Payroll Data
Today’s report included the annual benchmark revisions to the payroll data.  Data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), which is more complete and accurate than the monthly payroll employment statistics, had led us to expect a modest downward revision to total employment levels for the state.  However, the revised data revealed a small upward adjustment, amounting to about 800 jobs.  After revision, total payroll employment shows a growth rate of 1.2% from December 2015 through December 2016 (up from an original estimate of 0.4%).  Growth for the previous year was revised downward slightly from 2.3% to 2.0%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Revisions to the not-seasonally adjusted data covered the period March 2015 through December 2016.  Although there are small changes in the data for previous periods, these are only minor adjustments to seasonal factors.  Hence, the economically significant revisions are limited to the last two years.  The table below summarizes the impact of the revisions by sector, reporting on the change in the level of employment by sector as of December 2016, and comparing the pre-revision to post-revision growth rates for the two-year period December 2014 to December 2016.

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.

 

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