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Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – April 2024

The latest report on state-level employment and unemployment showed another strong month for Arkansas’ labor markets. Unemployment was down and employment continues to expand at an accelerated pace relative to the second half of last year.

The unemployment rate ticked down one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.4% in April. The number of unemployed declined by 826, the third consecutive monthly decline. The number of employed was up by 3,577—representing an accelerated pace in a six-month growth trend. The labor force continues to increase as well, up 2,731 in April.

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

The unemployment rate has lower for three consecutive months now, although it remains 0.6 percentage points higher than a year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate increased to 3.9% and is 0.5 percentage points higher than in April 2023 (which was a low point for both Arkansas and the U.S.).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
Arkansas Nonfarm payroll employment expanded by 5,100 in April, following a revised 6,300 increase the previous month (seasonally adjusted). Nearly every major sector reflected higher employment in April, with the exception of Durable Goods manufacturing (-100 jobs). The largest employment gains were registered in Retail Trade and Health Care services.

Compared to a year earlier, Manufacturing, Wholesale Trade, and Information Services have all seen declines, with all other major sectors contributing to employment growth. Education and Health Services (particularly Health), Retail Trade, Leisure and Hospitality Services and Construction have all shown strong gains since April 2023. Total employment is up 23,600—about 1.8%. Over the same period, U.S. employment growth has also been 1.8%.

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Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – March 2024

The latest report on metro area employment and unemployment, for March 2024, incorporates the last of the annual data revisions by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data for smoothed seasonally adjusted metropolitan area estimates were revised from January 2010 forward. As shown below, unemployment rates were revised slightly higher at the end of 2023 (with the exception of Memphis and Texarkana), and have remained steady or moved slightly lower in the first three months of 2024. As of March, most of the state’s metro areas had unemployment rates near the national average of 3.8%. Rates were lower in Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Little Rock, but higher in Pine Bluff.

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

The revisions to recent unemployment rates were generally similar to the revisions to statewide data: rates bottomed out earlier in 2023 than previously-published data suggested, rising gradually over the second half of the year. These revisions are primarily attributable to revisions of the number of unemployed workers in the underlying data.

The revised household data also had interesting implications for total employment across the state’s metro areas. As shown in the figures below, there were notable revisions going back several years for Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Pine Bluff and Texarkana–all reflecting lower employment estimates. More recent revisions show slower growth in Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Memphis and Texarkana. Recent employment growth was revised higher for Fort Smith and Little Rock. These patterns are similar to the revisions from the payroll survey that we previously reported.

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased from February to March in six of the state’s metro areas, was unchanged in Memphis and down 0.2% in Hot Springs. The fastest growth rates were in Little Rock, Fayetteville, and Jonesboro. On a year-over-year basis, Little Rock is continuing to match the growth rate of the Fayetteville metro area, with Fort Smith also showing strong growth. Growth rates in Hot Springs and Jonesboro have recently slowed, while Memphis, Pine Bluff and Texarkana have seen employment declines over the past year.

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

Over the past four years (from February 2020) growth trends have varied widely among the state’s metro areas. Fayetteville’s 12.2% tops the list, with Little Rock and Jonesboro maintaining strong growth as well (higher than the U.S. average). On the other hand, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, and Memphis continue to show net job losses over the past four years.

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

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – March 2024

The report on state employment and unemployment for March represents another upbeat reading on Arkansas labor market conditions. The unemployment rate declined by one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.5%. The U.S. unemployment rate declined from 3.9% to 3.8% for the month.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The decline in the unemployment rate was driven by a drop of 1,228 in the number of unemployed, nearly matching the 1,322 decline of the previous month. In February and March, the number of unemployed has once again fallen below 50,000, after hovering slightly above that threshold from October 2023 through January 2024. Employment was up by 1,747 in March, outpacing the unemployment decline and resulting in a small expansion of the labor force (+519).

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 6,500 jobs in March (seasonally adjusted). The increase represented a growth rate of 0.48% for the month (a 5.9% annual rate), which turned out to be the highest growth rate for March among all 50 states.

As shown in the table below, employment gains were widespread across sectors. Construction was off slightly from February, but remains among the fastest-growing sectors compared to a year ago. Employment in manufacturing was higher for both durable and nondurable goods. Among service-providing sectors, only Transportation & Utilities and Education & Healthcare showed small declines (although Health Care employment was up for the month). Both Professional & Business Services and Leisure & Hospitality services showed relatively large increases for the month after displaying sluggish growth over much of 2023.

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

The job growth in March raised the year-over-year growth rate of Arkansas employment to 18,500 jobs, or 1.4%. Over the same period, U.S. payroll employment expanded by 1.9%. As shown in the following figure, Arkansas continues to surpass the U.S. in cumulative growth since February 2020, with Arkansas employment expanding by 5.6% compared to 3.9% for the U.S.

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 consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE. 

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – February 2024

Data on Arkansas employment and unemployment for February showed signs of resilience in the state’s labor markets. After rising to 3.7% over the second half of 2023, the unemployment rate ticked downward from 3.7% in January to 3.6% in February. The national unemployment rate increased from 3.7% to 3.9% in February.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The decline in Arkansas’ unemployment rate was driven by a fairly sharp drop in the number of unemployed, -1,365. The number of employed increased, but by only 1,105. As a result, the labor force declined slightly—the first monthly decline since July 2021. Although the increase in employment was not enough to offset the decline in unemployment, February marked the fourth consecutive month of employment growth.

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm Payroll Employment was up by 2,400 in February, after an upward revision of 1,400 to January’s total (seasonally adjusted data). Expanding sectors included Construction, along with several service-providing sectors. Employment in durable goods manufacturing was up slightly (+300), but non-durable goods employment was down by 1,000. Other sectors showing job declines included wholesale and retail trade, information services, and professional & business services.

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

Over the past twelve months, we’ve seen expansion across most service-providing sectors. In the goods-producing sectors, growth has been strong in construction employment, but manufacturing employment is down. Total employment growth over the past twelve months has been 15,400 jobs—about 1.1% growth. Over the same period, U.S. payroll employment growth was approximately 1.8%.

It has been four years since the peak-employment of February 2020, just before the onset of the pandemic-related contraction. Relative to that prior high-point, Arkansas employment growth has totaled 5.2%, compared to 3.6% for the U.S.

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 consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE. 

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – January 2024

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released new data on metro area employment and unemployment for January 2024, including annual revisions to previously-reported data.

The unemployment data have been partially revised, but comparable historical data will not be available until April 19. Today’s release did include revised, not-seasonally adjusted data for January 2023 and December 2023, so we can make some comparisons.  First, the figure below compares the new January unemployment rates with the revised unemployment rates from January 2023. Over the year increases ranged from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points, with the exception of Texarkana, where the rate declined by 0.2. Five metro areas had unemployment rates above 4% in January 2024, while Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Little Rock had rates below the statewide average.

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

The revisions to the data for metro areas generally appear to follow the pattern seen in the revised data for statewide unemployment. Specifically, that rates were revised lower for January 2023 but ended the year higher than originally reported.

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment was up 0.3% in the Little Rock metro area, but unchanged or lower for the rest of the state. Pine Bluff and Texarkana had the largest declines. Compared to a year earlier, Little Rock showed the strongest growth at 2.0%, slightly outpacing Northwest Arkansas. As discussed below, this reversal of relative growth trends is largely attributable to revisions to the employment data for those two metro areas.

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

Over the longer run, cumulative growth rates since February 2020 have varied widely across the state, ranging from 11.1% in Northwest Arkansas to -2.8% in Pine Bluff.

Revisions to Payroll Employment Data
Payroll employment data for metro areas that was released this week was subject to the same annual benchmark revision process as for the statewide data. The revisions were generally limited to the period since April 2022 for not seasonally adjusted data, with minor changes to seasonal factors going back to 2019. The BLS report also mentioned that “Some not seasonally adjusted and seasonally adjusted series have been revised as far back as 1990.” The data for Arkansas metro areas include examples of these long-term adjustments of the series.

As shown in the set of figures below, employment data for Fayetteville and Fort Smith were subject to a downward shift for all pre-2022 data, while Little Rock shows a corresponding upward revision to the historical series.

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

More interesting are the revisions to recent growth trends. Over the two year period from December 2021 to December 2023, employment growth for Fayetteville was previously estimated to be 9.1%. In the revised data, the growth rate is only 6.9%. Growth rates for Jonesboro, Memphis, and Texarkana were also revised lower. Growth for Fort Smith and Hot Springs were revised higher, but the largest change was for Little Rock, where the previously-reported growth rate of 2.4% was revised up to 4.9%. The upward revision for Little Rock and the downward revision for Fayetteville, both primarily affecting data for 2023, resulted in the reversal of year-over-year growth patterns.

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

 

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – January 2024

New employment and unemployment data for January was mixed. Data from the household survey showed only small changes in the number of employed and unemployed Arkansans. The payroll survey showed mixed results for the month, but data revisions suggest significant changes from previously reported levels and growth rates for some sectors.

After being revised upward from 3.4% to 3.7% for December (see HERE), the unemployment rate was unchanged in January. With the recent revisions, the Arkansas unemployment rate has matched the U.S. rate In November, December and January. Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the national unemployment rate rose to 3.9%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The data underlying the unemployment rate were little changed in January. The number of unemployed was estimated to have risen by 46, and the number of employed increased by 460, for a change in the labor force of just over 500. The figures below illustrate these changes in the context of the recent revisions to the data.

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

Payroll Employment
The not-seasonally adjusted data for nonfarm payroll employment showed a decline of 17,700 jobs from December to January. However, there is always a post-holiday season drop-off in January employment. After seasonal adjustment, the data show an increase of 2,700 jobs. Monthly changes were mixed, with Construction and Retail Trade showing significant increases. Employment declines were reported for Durable Goods Manufacturing, Wholesale Trade, Financial Services and Other Services. Differences across sectors are even more noticeable when comparing growth from a year ago. Year-over-year gains in Construction, Retail Trade  and Education and Health Services have been significant. Other sectors have shown small changes over the past year. Manufacturing, Transportation & Utilities, and Professional & Business services are three sectors that have shown notable job losses in the past 12 months.

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

Revisions to Payroll Data
Having concluded their annual benchmark revisions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics included newly revised data on payroll employment in this morning’s report. The revised not-seasonally adjusted data, now adjusted to 2023 benchmark levels, were revised back to April 2022. Seasonal factors were subject to small revisions going back to January 2019. For total nonfarm payroll employment, the revisions had the effect of lowering the level of employment by 7,400 as of December 2023. The new data show a two year growth rate of 4.0% for the period December 2021 through December 2023, down from the previously-reported 4.4%.

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

The table below details the changes, by sector, in the levels of employment for December 2023, along with changes in the two-year growth rates for December 2021 through December 2023. Because the largest revisions were made to the most recent data, the changes in the levels of employment reported in the first column tend to carry over into revisions of the corresponding two-year growth rates. Some of the more notable revisions were for Retail Trade, Transportation & Utilities, Information Services, and Other Services.

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 consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE. 

 

Revised Data on Employment & Unemployment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has issued its first round of employment data revisions for the year, publishing revised statistics for unemployment and employment as measured by the Household Survey and published in the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) database.  As expected, the new data show that the sharp dip in unemployment recorded in mid-2023 was not as large as originally reported. Instead of showing a dip to 2.6% in June and July, the revised data show that the unemployment rate bottomed-out at 2.8% in March and April.  The new data also show a more pronounced rise in the unemployment rate over the second half of 2023, with the December rate being revised upward from 3.4% to 3.7%.

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

As shown above, the significant revisions to the unemployment rate data mostly affected the period since mid-2022. However, the extent of the revisions went back to 2019. The unemployment rate closely tracks the number of unemployed, for which the revisions produce the same patterns shown above. The new data show that the number of unemployed dropped to just under 40,000 at its low point, rather than falling as low as 35,600 in the previously published data.

Revisions to the number of employed were subject to more extensive revision.  The new data show that the drop in employment back in April of 2020 was a bit sharper than previously reported, and that employment growth since then has not been quite as rapid.

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

Labor force data was revised in line with the employment revisions.

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

As a result of the downward revision to the labor force statistics, the labor force participation rate would be also expected to show a slower recovery from the pandemic-related decline in 2020 and 2021. However, updated population statistics from the 2020 census showed a downward revision as well, partly offsetting that effect. As a result, the revised data show a participation rate of 57.5%, only slightly lower than the 57.6% rate previously reported.

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

New data on unemployment for January, along with revised data from the Establishment Survey, will be reported on March 11th.

 

Metro Area Employment & Unemployment – December 2023

This week we received the final metro area employment report covering 2023. For the month of December, unemployment rates were generally higher across the state, while changes in payroll employment were mixed.

As shown the table below, the change in unemployment rates in December were 0.1 percentage points higher than in November for Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, and Little Rock. The rate in Pine Bluff was up 0.2 percentage points and was unchanged in Texarkana. Only in Memphis was there a decline in the unemployment rate for the month.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Estimates

The table also shows that nearly all of Arkansas’ metro areas saw unemployment rates declining over the first half of the year and increasing over the second half of the year. This pattern is also clear in the figure below, with the exception of Texarkana and Memphis. Statewide, the unemployment rate ended the year at the same place it started. That was also true for Northwest Arkansas Little Rock, and Memphis. Year-over-year changes in the unemployment rate were positive for Fort Smith and Jonesboro; negative for Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Estimates

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment showed mixed changes around the state, but increases tended to predominate. Employment was slightly higher in Fayetteville, Fort Smith,  and Little Rock.  Relatively large gains were recorded for Memphis and Texarkana.  Hot Springs and Pine Bluff saw employment declines and Jonesboro was unchanged.

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

Year-over-year growth rates varied considerably among the metro areas. Northwest Arkansas continued its robust growth trend and Texarkana has a strong year of growth after languishing in 2021 and 2022. Employment was down in Hot Springs, Little Rock and Memphis.

 

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – December 2023

The state employment report for December continued to show that the labor market was weakening toward the end of the year, with the unemployment rate increasing for the fifth consecutive month. From a longer-term perspective, however, the weakness toward the end of the year was merely a partial offset to the strength we saw in the first half of 2023.

The state unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points in December, rising from 3.3% to 3.4%. That is 0.6 higher than the record-low of 2.6% reported for June and July. Nevertheless, we ended the year with the same unemployment rate we had at the start of the year. The net change in the number of unemployed from the end of 2022 was only 446.

The December report also showed a decline in the number of employed for the third consecutive month, along with the second monthly decline in the size of the labor force. But these declines only partly offset the gains from earlier in the year. From December 2022 to December 2023, the household survey showed that the number of employed increased by 18,263 and the size of the labor force increased by 18,709.

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

The data for 2023 will be revised before we get our first reading on 2024. Typically, the end-of-year unemployment rate is subject to very small revisions, with the path from the beginning to the end of the year showing the effects of additional data refinements. We expect the revised data to show a smoothing of the relatively large swings in the number of unemployed that were reported during 2023.

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 5,800 in December, recovering more than half of the employment losses reported for the previous three months (seasonally adjusted data). Expanding sectors included all major goods-producing sectors, with Construction and Durable Goods Manufacturing showing substantial gains. Relatively strong holiday shopping boosted employment in Retail Trade. Among service-providing sectors, employment in Education & Health Services and Other Services continued to expand, while Leisure & Hospitality Services contracted slightly. Compared to December 2023, payroll employment growth totaled 15,100, or about 1.1%.

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

Including the December increase, payroll employment has expanded by 62,700 since February 2020 (pre-COVID) amounting to a gain of 5.3%. Over the same period, the net change in U.S. employment has been 3.2%.

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 consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE. 

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – November 2023

Data for November indicate further weakening of Arkansas labor markets. The unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 3.3%, and both the household and payroll surveys showed employment declines.

The increase in the unemployment rate was the fourth consecutive monthly increase after hitting a low of 2.6% in June and July. Nevertheless, the state’s unemployment rate remains lower than a year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate declined from 3.9% to 3.7% in November, further closing the gap between the national and state unemployment rates. (The difference is no longer considered statistically significant.)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The pattern of the unemployment rate over the course of 2023 is attributable to large swings in the number of unemployed. From January through July, the number of unemployed declined by approximately 11,000 to an all-time low of 35,624. From July through November that number has risen by 9,655 to 45,279, but it remains lower than at the start of the year. The household survey also showed a decline in the number of employed in November (following a decline in October) and the net change in the labor force turned negative as well. Nevertheless, both employment and the labor force remain well-above levels of a year ago or at the start of 2023.

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment declined by 1,600 in November, following a revised 4,500 decline in October (seasonally adjusted data). After reaching a peak in August, nonfarm payrolls have declined by 9,800. Compared to a year ago, however, payroll employment is up by 12,800 (approximately 1%).

The employment declines in November included nearly all goods-producing sectors, along with Wholesale and Retail Trade and Professional & Business Services. Government employment also declined (primarily local government). Several service-providing sectors registered employment gains, including Leisure & Hospitality Services and Education & Health Services. Those two super-sectors, along with Construction, comprise the areas where employment growth has been strongest over the past twelve months. At the other end of the scale, Manufacturing, Retail Trade, Transportation & Utilities, Information Services, and Professional & Business services have all declined compared to their levels in November 2022.

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

The 12,800 increase in Arkansas payroll employment over the past twelve months corresponds to a growth rate of 1.0%. Over the same period, U.S. employment increased by 1.8%. Compared to employment levels of February 2020, employment in Arkansas is up by 4.9%, while U.S. employment has increased by 3.1%.

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 consistent with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, can be found here: Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.