Unemployment rates were unchanged or down slightly in Arkansas’ metro areas in August. It had been previously reported that the statewide unemployment rate ticked down 0.1 percentage points for the month. Today’s data release shows that the change was reflected in similar declines for Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro and Memphis. Pine Bluff and Texarkana saw even large declines, while unemployment rates in the Fayetteville and Little Rock metro areas were unchanged. Compared to a year ago, unemployment rates are down 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in six of the eight metro areas. In Memphis and Texarkana, however, rates are slightly higher than a year ago.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the level of unemployment rates in Arkansas varied from a low of 2.5% in Northwest Arkansas to a high of 4.8% in Texarkana. Unemployment rates were below the statewide average in Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Little Rock; and were higher than the statewide average in Memphis, Pine Bluff and Texarkana. Unemployment rates in Hot Springs and Fort Smith are essentially the same as the statewide figure.
Nonfarm payroll employment was down slightly on a statewide basis in August, but changes among metro areas were mixed. Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro and Memphis registered slight gains, while Hot Springs and Little Rock saw employment declines. Pine Bluff and Texarkana were unchanged. Over the past year, employment has been unchanged or down slightly in Fort Smith, Hot Springs and Pine Bluff. All other metro areas have seen net increases, with the magnitude of gains particularly notable in Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Memphis.
Household vs. Payroll Employment
In the context of the statewide numbers, we have noted that the measures of employment estimated from the household survey have been growing at a significantly slower pace than the payroll employment figures. Over the most recent six months, the household survey (used to calculate the unemployment rate) has declined by 0.3% statewide, while the payroll survey is showing an employment increase of 0.6%. As shown in the table below, this discrepancy carries over to several of the state’s metro areas. The differences are largest in Fort Smith, Hot Springs and Texarkana. Although both sets of employment estimates will be revised early next year, the payroll survey is generally considered to be the more accurate of the two. Consequently, employment conditions in the state’s metro areas are better expressed in the recent statistics on payroll employment, and the household data (including unemployment rates) are more likely to be revised in those metro areas where the discrepancies are the largest.