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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – August 2011

As previously reported, the unemployment rate for the state ticked up one-tenth of a percent in August, so it might appear anomalous that data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Arkansas Workforce Services shows that unemployment rates in each of the state’s metro areas dropped for the month.  The discrepancy is due to the fact that state-level data are seasonally adjusted, whereas the metro area data are reported on a not-seasonally-adjusted basis.  After applying simple statistical procedures for seasonal adjustment, however, unemployment rates in the state’s metro areas generally rose in August — consistent with the statewide data.  (One important seasonal factor affecting unemployment rates in August is the return of teachers to work and students to school.  This tends to lower measured unemployment, but says little about the underlying state of labor markets.  Seasonal adjustment accounts for this recurring pattern.)

As shown in the table below, seasonally-adjusted unemployment rates in August were higher than July in all but two of the state’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).  Memphis was unchanged at 10.2% and Texarkana’s rate ticked down from 7.9% to 7.8%.  Unemployment rates in Fayetteville, Hot Springs, and Jonesboro rose by 0.3%, with smaller increases in Fort Smith, Little Rock and Pine Bluff.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates had been declining during the latter part of 2010, but have clearly been on a rising trajectory since the beginning of this year.  Over the past year and a half, Pine Bluff and Memphis have maintained the highest unemployment rates in the state, Fayetteville and Little Rock the lowest rates, with the state’s other MSA’s clustered near the statewide average. 

Sources:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

Data from the separate payroll survey reinforces the weakness indicated by the unemployment figures.  From July to August, payroll employment declined in all of Arkansas’ MSAs except Hot Springs.  Compared to a year ago, employment has declined in Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.  Since the statewide employment trough in February 2010, however, most of the states metro areas still show positive net job growth.  Only Memphis and Pine Bluff had lower employment in August 2011 than in February 2010.  Compared to the start of the recession, employment in Hot Springs is up by 4.1%, but is lower in all of the other MSAs — ranging from -0.8% in Jonesboro to -8.4% in Memphis. 

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

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – August 2011

The Arkansas unemployment rate rose for the fourth consecutive month in August, up one-tenth of a percent to 8.3%.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Arkansas was one of 26 states that saw a rise in the unemployment rate in August.  The statistics from the household survey showed that the number of employed was down 3,148 while the number of unemployed was up by 1,193.  

As shown in the figure below, the unemployment rate in Arkansas has been trending upward since the beginning of the year.  For most of the recession and recovery period, Arkansas unemployment rate was 2 percentage points below the unemployment rate for the U.S.  It has now crept up to within 0.8 percentage points of the the national average. 

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

The payroll survey was also disappointing.  Seasonally adjusted data for August showed a decline of 1,900 jobs, on top of a downward revision to the July data.  After peaking in April, payroll employment has declined by 7,000 jobs in the past four months.  The table below shows that job losses in August were widespread.  The only sectors that showed positive monthly growth were Government (+3,000 jobs) and Manufacturing (+400).  Losses were particularly sharp in Professional and Business Services (-1,700) and Construction (-1,900).  Employment in construction had shown a sharp increase in July, but the August figures erased that gain.

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

It is never advisable to put too much emphasis on one month’s data, or on any one particular statistic.  But today’s employment report is the fourth consecutive report indicating weakness in Arkansas’ job market.  Data from both the household survey and and payroll survey suggest that conditions have deteriorated markedly since April. 

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*Seasonally adjusted data for nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, are available hereTable – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – July 2011

As previously reported, the statewide unemployment rate rose slightly in July, from 8.1% to 8.2% (seasonally adjusted).  New data released this morning shows that most of Arkansas’ Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) experienced stable or lower unemployment rates.  As shown in the table below, not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rates declined in all of the state’s MSAs except for Texarkana.  Unemployment tends to be higher during the summer months, reflecting the impact of summer vacation for school employees and students.  There is typically a very slight drop in unemployment rates between June and July.   After accounting for these seasonal regularities, seasonally adjusted figures show unemployment rates declining in Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Memphis, and Pine Bluff.   Texarkana saw a small uptick in unemployment, while rates in Fayetteville and Fort Smith were unchanged.

Sources:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployment rates in July were lower than a year earlier in 257 of the nation’s 372 MSAs, higher in 94, and unchanged in 21.  Here in Arkansas, only Hot Springs shows a lower unemployment rate than in July 2010.

The figures for nonfarm payroll employment in Arkansas’ MSAs show mixed results for July:  Compared to the previous month, employment declined in Fayetteville, Fort Smith and Texarkana.   Increases were recorded for Pine Bluff, Memphis, and Hot Springs.   The payroll data for Hot Springs have been particularly volatile in recent months, but as of the most recent observation, Hot Springs employment is 7.3% higher than a year ago, 7.8% higher than the employment trough of February 2010, and 2.6% higher than at the start of the 2008-09 recession.  Jonesboro also shows gains over all of those time-horizons, with employment up 1.0% since the start of the recession.

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

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – July 2011

The unemployment rate in Arkansas rose again in July, reaching a new cyclical high of 8.2% (up from 8.1% in June).  The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services (DWS) indicated that the number of Arkansans unemployed rose for the third straight month, up 1,400 in July following a cumulative increase of 3,600 in May and June.  The household survey also showed a decline in the number of those employed, down 7,400. 

The employment data from the household survey have been showing a downward trend since March, falling by a total of nearly 25,000.  However, the establishment survey (which is based on reports from employers) shows a slowdown, but with net positive growth since the beginning of the year.  As illustrated in the figure below, employment measured by the payroll survey has been growing–albeit irregularly–since February 2010.  But since March, net growth in payroll employment has been virtually zero (-0.02%).

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

The payroll data for July shows a slight uptick in employment, rising by 600 jobs from the revised level in June (seasonally adjusted).  As shown in the table below, employment declines were registered in some key sectors for the Arkansas economy, including Manufacturing; Trade, Transportation, & Utilities; and Professional & Business Services.  Employment in Leisure & Hospitality Services and Education & Health Services expanded.  In a surprising break from its sluggish recent trend, construction employment rose sharply in July.   Looking at job growth since then end of 2010, only one sector (Manufacturing) has shown negative net growth.  Led by gains in the service providing sectors, total payroll employment has increased by 7,100 jobs during 2011. 

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

The seasonally adjusted data from the BLS summarized in the table above is quite a bit different than the not seasonally adjusted data in the press release from DWS.  Before seasonally adjustment, the Arkansas payroll employment was down by 15,600 jobs.  Most of this decline was registered in the category of Local Government (-13,200), reflecting the seasonal decline in employment in the state’s public schools.  The not-seasonally-adjusted data also show a larger decline in Professional & Business Services.

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*Seasonally adjusted data for nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly press release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, are available hereTable – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE

Metro Area Employment Summary – 2011:Q2

The latest data on employment and unemployment for Arkansas’ metro areas indicates that  unemployment rates have been increasing across the state.  This morning’s news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “unemployment rates were lower in June than a year earlier in 224 of the 372 metropolitan areas…”  Unfortunately, none of Arkansas’ metro areas were included in that total.  In fact, unemployment rates in Arkansas have increased across the board during the second quarter of 2011. 

On a month-to-month basis, some of the June unemployment rates reported today jumped substantially higher than May.  However, higher unemployment in June is a recurring seasonal phenomenon.  After adjusting for seasonality, the increases in unemployment rates were more modest — but they were increases, nonetheless.  The June jump in unemployment was largest in Fort Smith (+0.5 percentage points), but was also substantial in Fayetteville, Hot Springs, and Pine Bluff (+0.3 percentage points each).  Unemployment in the Little Rock MSA was essentially unchanged. 

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

When the statewide data was released, we noted that June’s payroll survey indicated somewhat greater strength in labor markets than did the household survey.  The same is true of the metro area data.  Nonfarm payroll employment declined in four of the state’s MSAs, but  increased in three.   Hot Springs showed a particularly large drop in payroll employment in June.  However, this only partly offset substantial increases registered in April and May.  Compared to a year ago, employment in both Hot Springs and Texarkana are up more than one percent.

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

Relative to the statewide trough in employment registered in February 2010, all but one of Arkansas’ MSAs have shown positive growth.  Employment in Pine Bluff remains 2.2% below the level of February 2010, but is slightly above a low-point registered in February 2011.  Compared to the start of the recession, employment changes range from down 6.3% in Fort Smith to essentially unchanged in Jonesboro.

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – June 2011

According to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services (DWS), the unemployment rate in Arkansas rose by 0.3 percentage points in June, from 7.8% to 8.1%.  The Arkansas unemployment rate is now higher than it has been at any time during the recession and recovery.  The household survey reported an increase in the number of unemployed by over 2,500 and a decline in the number of employed by approximately 11,000.  At 109,000, the number of unemployed in Arkansas is now at a new all-time high.  As shown in the chart below, recent increases in the Arkansas unemployment rate have been following the national trend, although the rate is still more than one percentage point lower in Arkansas than the national average. 

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

The news from this morning’s report was not all bad,  however.  This is one of those occasions when the independent payroll survey provides a different picture than the household survey.  According to the payroll report, employment was up by 2,100 in June (seasonally adjusted), with the May number revised upward slightly as well.  Since the trough of February 2010, nonfarm payroll employment in Arkansas has increased by 27,600.  That increase represents approximately 47% of the jobs lost from the start of the recession until February 2010.

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

As shown in the table below, employment gains were concentrated in the service-providing sectors, particularly Education & Health Services and Professional & Business Services.  The crucial sectors of Manufacturing and Trade, Transportation & Utilities showed rather substantial losses for the month.  Employment in the construction sector showed a welcome increase.  Nevertheless, employment in both Construction and Manufacturing are down for the first six months of the year.

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

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*Seasonally adjusted data for nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly press release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, are available hereTable – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE

Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages – 2010:Q4

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW).  This is the most detailed and accurate of all the employment measures compiled by the BLS.  Data from the QCEW are available for individual counties and industries, and are used in benchmark revisions to bring greater precision to the monthly estimates of the Current Employment Statistics.  The most recent data (for the months of 2010:Q4) show positive net employment growth for the year:  From 2009:Q4 to 2010:Q4, total employment in Arkansas increased by approximately 7,400 jobs — an increase of 0.65%.

As shown in the map below, employment growth rates varied considerably among counties.  Growth rates ranged from a high of  7.6% in Miller County to a low of -10.3% in Little River County.  There is no clear geographic pattern to employment growth rates by county, but generally, growth rates tended to be higher in the northern portion of the state.  Of the state’s 75 counties, 41 showed positive growth rates while 34 contracted.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages

The breakdown of employment growth by industry shows that most of the employment growth during 2010 took place in the service-providing sectors.  Professional and Business services (which include temporary employment agencies) posted a growth rate of over 4%.  Education and Health services continued its robust growth (+1.4%), and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities made a significant rebound (+1.5%).  Both Financial Services and Information Services contracted over the year, but both are relatively small sectors so they did not contribute much to overall job growth.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages

 

In March 2012, the monthly data from the Current Employment Statistics will be revised using information from the QCEW.   In some previous years, these benchmark revisions have been substantial.  For example, in early 2010, revised data showed a loss of more than 18,000 jobs in Arkansas that had not  been reflected in the monthly CES data for 2009 (see Forecasting a Revision of History).  The data released last week indicate that next year’s revisions are likely to be relatively small.  Our estimates indicate that the revisions will show somwhat higher employment for the first half of the year, but a downward revision to fourth-quarter data. 

Sources:  Bureau of Labor Statistics/QCEW, Projections by IEA
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Projections by IEA

Metro Area Unemployment Rates – Update

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning that unemployment rates were “lower in May than a year earlier in 274 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 85, and unchanged in 13.”  Among Arkansas Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), unemployment rates were lower for only 2, with rates higher in the remainder (relative to a year earlier).   Comparing May to the previous month, seasonally adjusted data show that  the unemployment rate increased in 3 MSAs, declined in 3, and was unchanged in Hot Springs.

Sources:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for Economic Advancement

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – May 2011

The unemployment rate in Arkansas ticked upward in May, rising from 7.7% to 7.8%.  According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services (DWS), the household survey showed that the number of unemployed rose by over 1,100 while the number of employed dropped 4,800.  This was the second consecutive monthly decline in the number of employed following a string of increases since July 2010.  DWS Communications director Kimberly Friedman pointed out that the uptick in the unemployment rate and the decline in the labor force “mirrors the trend seen at the national level.”   It is also likely to reflect disruptions due to severe weather conditions in Arkansas during late April and May.

The figures for nonfarm payroll employment from the establishment survey also showed a contraction in the total number of jobs in May, down 5,400 (seasonally adjusted).  As shown in the chart below, the May reading fits the recent pattern of month-to-month volatility.  From a longer-run perspective, however, the latest monthly observation provides little indication of any change in the trend of positive job growth that has prevailed since February of 2010.

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

Job losses in May were concentrated in two sectors:  Trade, Transportation, and Utilitites (TT&U); and Professional and Business Services (P&B).  In the broad TT&U sector, the raw data showed only a slight decline in jobs (-200).  However, employment in this sector typically expands during May so the seasonally adjusted figures show a decline of 3,100 — with much of the loss concentrated in Retail Trade (-1,800).  In the P&B services sector the number of jobs was down by 2,400 (seasonally adjusted) with the losses concentrated in Administrative & Support Services (-1,700).  The Administrative and Support subsector includes temporary positions arranged through employment agencies–so while it has shown some of the largest gains over the past year (+2,900) it is one of the first areas to show job losses in a temporary employment contraction (-1,400 in May).

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

The tornadoes and flooding that hit many parts of the state during April and May are likely to have suppressed employment growth temporarily, but should have little lasting effect.  In fact, recovery efforts are likely to provide some support for job growth in coming months — particularly in the construction sector.  Underlying growth trends are also likely to result in a rapid recovery in the Administrative & Support Services sector.  The key sector to monitor in June will be TT&U, which accounts for a large share of total employment in Arkansas.  If the factors underlying the weak employment report for May are indeed temporary, we should see robust recovery in this sector.  Continued stagnation in this sector would be a sign of more fundamental economic weakness.

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*Seasonally adjusted data for nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly press release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, are available hereTable – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – April 2011

The latest reports on conditions in Arkansas labor markets confirm the trend of slow but steady improvement.  According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, the unemployment rate in March was revised downward by 0.1% to 7.7%, and remained at that level in April.  The underlying data from the household survey showed a decline in the labor force and the number of employed persons in April, representing breaks in what had been generally upward trends in those series.  More important, however, the data also showed a decline in the number of unemployed — down 341 from the previous month.  So far in 2011, the number of unemployed in Arkansas has fallen by over 1,400.

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

The survey of employers showed an accelerating pace of employment growth.  The total for March was revised upward by 2,000 jobs and payrolls expanded by an additional 4,800 in April (seasonally adjusted).  Over the first four months of the year, employers have added over 12,000 jobs to their payrolls.  And since the trough of February 2010, employment has increased by 31,400.  This 16-month expansion represents a milestone of sorts:  Over half of the total jobs lost between the start of the recession and February 2010 have now been recovered.  By comparison, employment nationwide has risen by 1.8 million, only about 20% of the total number of jobs lost from the start of the recession.

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

Employment in construction continues to languish, declining by another 900 jobs in April (seasonally adjusted).  Over the past 12 months, construction employment is down by 2,600.  Manufacturing employment increased by 1,200 in April, but is still below the level of a year ago.  Service-providing jobs rose in every major sector in April, with the exception of “Other Services.”   Gains were particularly strong in Leisure and Hospitality; Professional and Business Services; and Trade, Transportation and Utilities. 

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

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*Seasonally adjusted data for nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly press release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, are available hereTable – Seasonally Adjusted NFPE