Institute for Economic Advancement

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – March 2017

By , April 21, 2017 1:06 PM

The Arkansas unemployment rate set another new record low in March: 3.6%.  Having declined by 0.1 percentage point in each of the past four months, the state’s unemployment rate is now 0.9% lower than the national average.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

March’s decline in the unemployment rate was underpinned by an increase in the number of employed (+4,428) and a decline in the number unemployed (-1,240).  As a result, the participation rate was up for the second consecutive month, after declining steadily during 2016 and into the first part of this year.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged in March (seasonally adjusted).  Professional and Business Services continued to show strong growth, increasing by 1,200 jobs from February to March.  Education and Health Services showed an uncharacteristic decline for the month, but remains the single largest generator of job growth among the major super-sectors over the past 12 months.  Construction employment would ordinarily be expected to increase this time of year, but the warm early spring months was associated with earlier-than-expected increases.  As a result, with not-seasonally adjusted employment unchanged in the construction sector in March, the seasonally-adjusted figures register a decline of 800 jobs.  Manufacturing continues to show signs of improvement, having added a cumulative total of 3,100 jobs over the past year.

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

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

Compared to its pre-recession level (December 2007), Arkansas employment has increased by 33,100 jobs — about 2.8% growth.  Over the same period, employment nationally has increased by 5.3%.  That long-run comparison includes a period of relatively stagnant job growth in Arkansas — from around 2011 through 2013.  More recently, Arkansas employment has tracked the national growth rate more closely: Since the end of 2013, Arkansas employment has expanded by 5.7%, compared to 6.2% nationwide.

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 – February 2017

By , April 5, 2017 4:58 PM

Data on unemployment rates for metropolitan areas are still in flux after recent revisions.  Today’s news release featured new information for February and revised figures for January, but the databases at the Bureau of Labor Statistics have not yet been updated with revised historical data.  We do know that the not-seasonally adjusted data shows unemployment rates lower than a year ago in six of Arkansas’ eight metro areas.  In Memphis and Texarkana unemployment rates are up slightly from February 2016 to February 2017.

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

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

Although the statewide unemployment rate ticked downward in February (to a new record low), seasonally adjusted estimates for Arkansas metro areas indicate slight increases in unemployment from January to February.  The unemployment rate in Memphis dropped by 0.4 percentage point and unemployment in Jonesboro was unchanged, but the other metro areas saw increases.  The seemingly anomalous juxtaposition might just be noise in the data or reflect idiosyncrasies of the seasonal adjustment process — stay tuned for future revisions.

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

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged or higher in all of Arkansas’ metro areas.  The two metro areas that have been growing the fastest during the current economic expansion saw significant gains:  Jonesboro was up 0.9% from January to February and Fayetteville rose 0.8%.  Texarkana, where job growth has been rather weak in recent years, saw a full percentage point increase in employment.

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

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

Only three metro areas — Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Little Rock — have seen net increases in payroll employment since the pre-recession peak of December 2007.

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