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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – August 2019

Unemployment rates in Arkansas metropolitan areas generally held steady in August. Not seasonally adjusted rates declined in all eight metro areas, but those changes were associated with the start of the new school year at public and private educational institutions. After seasonal adjustment, unemployment rates were unchanged in six of the eight metro areas. The unemployment rate in Fort Smith ticked up 0.1% to 3.6% and the rate in Texarkana ticked down 0.1% to 4.2%. Compared to a year earlier, unemployment rates were down across the state–with the exception of Memphis and Pine Bluff which both saw rates 0.1% higher than in August 2018.

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

Payroll Employment
Monthly changes in nonfarm payroll employment varied considerably across metro areas. Texarkana showed unusually strong job growth of 0.7%, Fayetteville and Hot Springs were both up by 0.3%, and Jonesboro was up 0.2%. Job declines were recorded for Fort Smith, Little Rock, and Pine Bluff. On a year-over year basis, employment growth rates cluster into three categories: The rapidly growing metro areas include Fayetteville, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, and Texarkana (all with higher growth rates than the national average). Slower growing metro areas include Little Rock and Memphis. The two remaining areas, Fort Smith and Pine Bluff, have both experienced employment declines over the most recent twelve months.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics

Arkansas Personal Income – 2019:Q2

Arkansas total personal income increased at an annual rate of 5.0% in the second quarter, slightly slower than the nationwide average of 5.4%. The increase was an improvement over the first quarter growth rate (revised) of 1.9%. Over the most recent four quarters, personal income has increased by 4.0%, compared with the U.S. growth rate of 4.9%.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The second quarter numbers featured sharp declines in farm income, which also had the effect of depressing total proprietors’ income. The news release from the Bureau of Economic Analysis noted that declining farm income was a leading contributor to earnings declines and slow growth across the agricultural heartland. The unusually sharp declines were in turn attributed to “smaller Market Facilitation Payments in the second quarter of 2019 than in the first quarter.” (The Market Facilitation Program is the major government support program that “provides assistance to farmers and ranchers with commodities directly impacted by unjustified foreign retaliatory tariffs, resulting in the loss of traditional export markets.”)  Wages and Salaries increased at a 4.7% rate — approximately the same pace as the nation. Dividends, Interest and Rent increased at a rate of 8.2% and Personal Current Transfer Receipts were up at a 7.4% pace.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Data Revisions
Today’s personal income release included annual revisions to the historical data. Data were revised as far back as 1998:Q1; however, substantive revisions were limited to the period from 2012 forward. For Arkansas, the revisions showed a consistently higher adjustment of the total income data, with generally positive effects on growth rates.  In particular, the revised figures show higher growth in 2016 and 2018 than previously reported.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The cumulative effect of the revision was to increase the level of 2019:Q1 personal income in Arkansas by $2.2 billion. The upward revision was more than accounted for by higher estimates for Dividends, Interest and Rent, for which cumulative upward revisions totaled nearly $2.5 billion. Wage and Salary disbursements were marked up by $827 million and Personal Current Transfer Receipts were revised upward by $107 million. Farm income and proprietors’ income showed sharp downward revisions for 2018 and 2019:Q1. The cumulative impact of farm income revisions for the first quarter of 2019 totaled $1.47 billion.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – August 2017

The August report on state-level employment showed that Arkansas’ unemployment rate was 3.4%, the same level as in the previous month.  The national unemployment rate was also unchanged at 3.7%, so the Arkansas rate remained 0.3% lower than the national average (a difference that is too small to be statistically significant).  The August household survey showed a slight decline in the  number of employed (-832) but that was the first monthly decline so far this year, with the previous 7 monthly changes averaging an increase of 1,870.  The number of unemployed was essentially unchanged in August (-41).

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 increased by 2,300 in August, with an upward revision to July’s figure adding another 1,100 to the cumulative total for the year (seasonally adjusted).  Over the past 12 months, payroll employment has increased by 15.6%, a gain of approximately 1.2%.  According to the monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arkansas is one of 26 states where the year-over-year gain in employment was considered statistically significant.

As shown in the table below,the bulk of the job gains in Arkansas were associated with Manufacturing, up by 1,800 jobs — a monthly gain of 1.1% that offset declines from the previous three months.  Over the past year, employment in manufacturing has increased by 3,900, or 2.4%.  Monthly changes in the service-providing sectors were mixed:  expanding sectors included Financial Services, Professional and Business Services and Education & Health Services.  Leisure & Hospitality Services and Other Services were down for the month, as was Retail Trade.

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

It is notable that both the household survey and payroll survey data are revealing similar trends in employment growth.  For the past four months, both measures have reported year-over-year changes in the range of 1.1% to 1.3%.   Over the past five years of relatively steady employment growth in Arkansas, the household and payroll survey measures have averaged growth rates of 1.2% and 1.4%, respectively.

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 here:  Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – July 2019

Unemployment rates edged lower in Texarkana and Hot Springs in July, but were unchanged in Arkansas’ other metro areas.  Unemployment in the Memphis metro area, which includes one county in Arkansas, was up by 0.2 percentage points to 4.2%.  Unemployment rates were generally lower than a year earlier, with year-over-year changes ranging from -0.8 percentage points in Texarkana to -0.2 percentage points in Fayetteville and Little Rock.  Two exceptions to the year-over-year declines were Pine Bluff (up 0.1 percentage point) and Memphis, where unemployment was 4.2% in both July 2018 and July 2019.

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment declined in July by 0.2% in Fort Smith and in Little Rock, but was higher in the state’s other metro areas.  Employment growth in Hot Springs was particularly robust, up 0.8% in a single month.  Compared to July 2018, employment has shown solid growth in Fayetteville, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Memphis and Texarkana.  Fort Smith is essentially unchanged from the previous year, while Pine Bluff continues to suffer employment declines.  Total employment in Pine Bluff is now over 13% lower than before the recession of 2008-09.

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

 

Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2019:Q2

After a slow start in the first quarter of the year, Arkansas Taxable Sales surged 3.0% higher in the second quarter.  Compared to a year earlier, taxable sales were up 3.1%.  Gasoline prices edged higher, averaging $2.46, up from $2.11 in the first quarter.  As a result, Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) grew at a slightly faster rate of 3.2% for the quarter.  Over the most recent four quarters, ATSIG was up 2.6%.

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.
Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.
Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.
Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

Over the past five years, ATS has expanded at an annual rate of 3.0%, while ATSIG has grown at a rate of only 2.5%.  The slower pace of the measure including gasoline sales reflects the fact that gasoline prices (and hence gasoline expenditures) were considerably higher in 2014.  (Gasoline prices averaged $3.43 in the second quarter of 2014.)  Over the same 5-year period, inflation (as measured by the price index for personal consumption expenditures) has averaged a 1.3% annual rate.  Consequently, the growth rate of real taxable sales has averaged only 1.7%, or 1.2% including spending on gasoline.

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Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) is calculated by the Arkansas Economic Development Institute 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 2019:Q2 (Excel file).

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – July 2019

Arkansas’ unemployment rate ticked downward yet again in July, reaching an all-time low of 3.4%.  June’s record-low reading of 3.5% had been previously recorded in some of the preliminary data for 2018, but was a new low compared to revised figures. The new 3.4% record is the lowest unemployment rate in the history of the time-series—even among previous preliminary estimates.  The rate was driven lower by a continuing decline in the number of unemployed workers—down by approximately 400 in July and down by more than 4,300 over the past five months. Meanwhile, the number of employed was up by 800 in July and after seven consecutive monthly increases the number of employed is up by nearly 2,900 for the year.

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

Arkansas’ unemployment rate in July was 0.3% lower than the national rate of 3.7%.  However, given the range of uncertainty in the the data, the difference is not statistically significant.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
Before seasonal adjustment, nonfarm payroll employment dropped sharply in July (-13,900).  However, most of the decline was associated with summer vacation for workers in public and private education.  After seasonal adjustment, total employment was down by only 900 jobs.  Manufacturing and Construction were down for the month, but remain significantly higher than a year earlier.  Service-providing sectors continued their recent, slower trend rate of growth.  The exception was Leisure and Hospitality, which continues to add jobs at a robust rate—up 600 jobs for the month and up 5,000 since July 2018.  One notable weakness was in the Administrative & Support Services component of Professional & Business Services, a component that includes temporary clerical workers.  If demand for new employees were slowing, this component might be one of the first places to show weakness.

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

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – June 2019

Unemployment rates in Arkansas’ metro areas generally continued to trend lower in June, with monthly declines in Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Little Rock and Texarkana.  Unemployment was unchanged in Fort Smith, Hot Springs and Pine Bluff, while Memphis was the only metro area showing a slight increase for the month.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Relative to the statewide unemployment rate of 3.5%, rates are lower in Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Little Rock.  Rates in Memphis, Pine Bluff and Texarkana are above the statewide average, while Fort Smith and Hot Springs remain near the statewide average.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment was higher in most of the state’s metro areas, with particularly large monthly increases in Fayetteville and Jonesboro.  Two metro areas—Hot Springs and Texarkana—saw declines for the month, but both remain higher than a year earlier.   Pine Bluff is the only metro area to see zero job growth over the most recent 12 months, and it is also the only area to have experienced job losses since the current trend of statewide employment growth began in early 2014.

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

Since the onset of the “great recession” at the end of 2007, cumulative employment growth has varied markedly across the state.  Employment in Fayetteville and Jonesboro has climbed by over 20%.  In Little Rock, Memphis and Hot Springs, cumulative growth has been modest but positive.  On the other hand, employment in Texarkana, Fort Smith and Pine Bluff all remain well below their levels in 2007.  In Pine Bluff, the cumulative decline is over 13%.

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

Arkansas GDP – 2019:Q1

New data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows Arkansas GDP growth of 2.5% for the first quarter (seasonally adjusted annual rate).  This was the highest quarterly growth rate for Arkansas since 2016:Q4.  While this represents solid growth, it fell short of the national growth rate of 3.1% in the first quarter.  Today’s report on GDP by state showed growth rates ranging from a low of 1.2% in Hawaii to a high of 5.2% in West Virginia.  Arkansas’ growth rate ranked it number 38 among the 50 states.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Over the most recent four quarters, Arkansas GDP growth has grown 1.6%, compared to 3.2% nationwide.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

As detailed in the table below, Arkansas’ growth rate was adversely affected by a sharp decline in Agriculture, which subtracted 0.65% from the state’s overall economic growth.  Positive contributors to the Arkansas growth rate included Manufacturing (of both durable goods and nondurable goods), Retail Trade and Health Care.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Today’s data release contained no revisions of past data.  The next GDP update is scheduled for November 7, 2019, at which time revised data for 2014:Q1 through 2019:Q1 will be released.

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – June 2019

Arkansas’ unemployment rate declined by 0.1% in June, reaching an all-time low of 3.5%.  Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate ticked up 0.1% to 3.7%. The difference between the two rates remains statistically insignificant.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

June’s dip in the unemployment rate was primarily attributable to another month of fairly steep decline in the number of unemployed.  That number was down 1,208 for the month, and has fallen by 3,445 over the past three months.  Meanwhile, the number of employed was up by 1,949 in June, and has increased by 6,611 over the past three months.  Over the past 12 months, household employment has risen by 15,213, an increase of approximately 1.2%.

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

Payroll Employment
Arkansas nonfarm payrolls expanded by 1,400 in June (seasonally adjusted).  The not-seasonally adjusted figures released by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services showed a decline of over 5,000 jobs, but those losses were concentrated in sectors where summertime cutbacks are ordinary and expected.  In particular, declines in Education Services and State and Local government were associated with summer break at schools and universities.  After adjusting for these seasonal factors, small declines were recorded in only a handful of sectors and were offset by gains elsewhere.  One sector showing particular strength was Leisure and Hospitality services, particularly in the area of Accommodation and Food Services.  This sector typically expands during the summer months, but last month’s growth exceeded the usual seasonal patterns.  Over the past 12 months, the Leisure and Hospitality supersector has been the largest single contributor to Arkansas’ job growth, adding nearly 5,000 of the 16,100 total net increase in payroll employment.

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 here:  Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – May 2019

Unemployment rates in Arkansas metro areas continued to drift lower in May.  From April to May, unemployment rates declined in six of Arkansas’ eight metro areas, with declines of 0.2% in Hot Springs and Texarkana.  Over the past three months, unemployment rates have declined in all metro areas except Memphis.

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

As shown in the figure below, recent declines have partly reflected a reversal of rate increases earlier in the year.  Nevertheless, unemployment remain are now at record lows in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, and Little Rock.

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

Payroll Employment
Monthly changes in nonfarm payroll employment were mixed in May.  Employment was up 0.3% in Hot Springs< Little Rock and Memphis, and down 0.3% in Pine Bluff.  Smaller increases were reported for Jonesboro, Little Rock, and Texarkana.  Over the past year, payroll employment growth has exceeded 1.0 percent in six of the state’s metro areas.  In Fort Smith, net employment growth has been essentially zero, while it is down 0.3% in Pine Bluff.    A similar pattern holds for longer-term trends as well: Since the current period of employment expansion began at the end of 2013, the only metro area that has continued to see negative job growth has been Pine Bluff.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Current Employment Statistics (CES)
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Current Employment Statistics (CES)