Unemployment rates in Arkansas metropolitan areas ticked slightly higher in August, following the statewide uptick of 0.1 percentage points to 2.7%. Rates in Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Little Rock and Pint Bluff matched the statewide increase and Fort Smith increased by 0.2 percentage points. Rates in Northwest Arkansas, Memphis and Texarkana were unchanged for the month.
After declining through the first half of 2023, the upticks in August (and in July for Fort Smith and Memphis), leave unemployment rates below year-ago readings in all metro areas, with the year-over-year declines ranging from 1.4 percentage points in Pine Bluff to 0.2 percentage points in Memphis.
As of August, unemployment rates were lower than the statewide average in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Jonesboro and Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway metro areas. Rates in Fort Smith and Hot Springs are above the statewide average, but below the national unemployment rate. In Memphis, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana, unemployment rates are near the national reading.
Changes in Nonfarm payroll employment were mixed in August. Payrolls expanded by 0.8% in Northwest Arkansas, with Fort Smith, Jonesboro and Pine Bluff also seeing notable growth. Employment was down in Hot Springs, Little Rock, Memphis and Texarkana.
Payroll growth over the past year has been very strong in Northwest Arkansas, Jonesboro, and Texarkana. Hot Springs and Memphis have experienced slight declines, while employment in Little Rock is unchanged relative to August 2022. With the exceptions of Pine Bluff and Texarkana, employment is generally much higher now than it was before the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic.