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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – March 2023

New data for metro area employment and unemployment came out this week, including newly revised data from the household survey.  The revisions had minor effects on unemployment rates. As shown in the first two columns of the table below, unemployment rates were revised lower in all of Arkansas’ metro areas except for Texarkana (which was unchanged), with revisions ranging in size from 0.1 percentage points to 0.6 percentage points in Pine Bluff.

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

Over the first three months of 2023, unemployment rates have trended lower across the state. As of March, the unemployment rate was less than 3.0% (the statewide average) in four metro areas, with Northwest Arkansas registering a rate of only 2.1%. The largest declines in unemployment were recorded for Pine Bluff, where the unemployment rate has declined by 0.8 percent from the revised December rate of 5.0%.

Although the revisions to unemployment rates were generally minor, changes to the underlying data were, in some cases, substantial. The figures below illustrate the nature of the revisions for the numbers of employed in each metro area. Generally speaking, employment levels were revised lower for the two years leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic, with post-pandemic growth revised higher. Exceptions to this pattern include Memphis, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana, which now show slower post-Covid employment growth than originally estimated.

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment showed mixed changes for the month of March. Payrolls expanded in Northwest Arkansas, Hot Springs, Jonesboro and Pine Bluff.  Declines were registered for Fort Smith, Little Rock and Memphis. Texarkana was unchanged.

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

Employment in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metro area continues to expand at over twice the statewide pace, increasing by 5.25 over the past 12 months and by 11.0% since the pre-pandemic peak of February 2020. Jonesboro and Fort Smith continue to maintain a healthy growth rates and Hot Springs has rebounded sharply from its particularly large downturn in 2020. Pine Bluff and Texarkana continue to lag behind the pace of the rest of the state, with both metro areas still showing net job losses relative to February 2020.