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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – March 2016

Earlier this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new statistics on metro area employment and unemployment in March.  Also included in this week’s data dump were the long-awaited annual revisions to household employment and unemployment for metro areas.

The new statistics for March showed that the long decline in unemployment rates has continued, and even accelerated in some metro areas.   The not-seasonally adjusted data showed that unemployment rates have fallen significantly over the past 12 months, with changes ranging from -0.8% in Texarkana to -1.9% in Pine Bluff.

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

From February to March, unemployment rates continued their downward march in every Arkansas metro area except for Pine Bluff, where the rate stalled at 5.6%.

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

The unemployment rate changes thus far in 2016 come on top of downward revisions to the data for 2015.  As shown in the figures below, the revisions to data for 2014 and 2015 generally evened-out some of the volatility, with the revised data showing smoother, more monotonic downward paths.

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

In some cases, there were noticeable changes in the estimated unemployment rate levels (e.g. Pine Bluff and Memphis).  The table below summarizes the impact of the revisions on annual average unemployment rates.  With the exception of Memphis, revised unemployment levels were subject to small revisions in 2014, but the revisions had the effect of lowering the 2015 average unemployment rates for all eight metro areas.

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

Underlying the changes in unemployment rates, data on employment and unemployment were also revised.  The chart below shows the impact of the revisions on overall employment levels (as measured in the household survey data).  As of December 2015, the revisions increased measured employment in four metro areas and decreased it in the other four.  The largest revisions to the employment data were for Pine Bluff (+5.5%) and Hot Springs (-3.4%).

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

Payroll Data
Data from the independent establishment survey showed weaker employment growth than the household survey.  From February to March, payroll employment declined in 6 of 8 metro areas, rising only in Hot Springs and Jonesboro.  Compared to a year ago, employment has declined in Pine Bluff, but is higher in all other metro areas.  Fayetteville and Jonesboro have displayed the highest growth rates over the past year.

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