The latest report on metro area employment shows that Arkansas’ metro areas generally followed the same pattern as the statewide statistics reported on April 17th: sharply higher unemployment and substantial declines in payroll employment.
Metro area unemployment data were revised last week, with new numbers reported today for March. The revised seasonally adjusted estimates show little change in unemployment rates from December through February. The newly-released estimates for March show higher unemployment for all of Arkansas’ metro areas, with the increases ranging from 0.1% in Memphis to 1.7% in Pine Bluff.
Nonfarm payroll employment declined in most of Arkansas’ metro areas, although Texarkana and Memphis recorded increases. The largest percentage decline was in Hot Springs — down 1.5%. The Little Rock metro area was down 0.7%, reflecting a loss of 2,400 jobs. A decline of 0.4% in Northwest Arkansas reflected approximately 1,000 fewer jobs.
The March declines left some metro areas below year-ago employment levels. Little Rock is down 1.9% and Pine Bluff down 1.8%. Fort Smith and Hot Springs were also below employment levels from March 2019. Northwest Arkansas, Jonesboro, Memphis and Texarkana have employment totals that remain above year-ago levels.
It is anticipated that March will be seen as a transitional month, with the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to control its spread showing up in the data for April.