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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – March 2024

The latest report on metro area employment and unemployment, for March 2024, incorporates the last of the annual data revisions by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data for smoothed seasonally adjusted metropolitan area estimates were revised from January 2010 forward. As shown below, unemployment rates were revised slightly higher at the end of 2023 (with the exception of Memphis and Texarkana), and have remained steady or moved slightly lower in the first three months of 2024. As of March, most of the state’s metro areas had unemployment rates near the national average of 3.8%. Rates were lower in Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Little Rock, but higher in Pine Bluff.

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

The revisions to recent unemployment rates were generally similar to the revisions to statewide data: rates bottomed out earlier in 2023 than previously-published data suggested, rising gradually over the second half of the year. These revisions are primarily attributable to revisions of the number of unemployed workers in the underlying data.

The revised household data also had interesting implications for total employment across the state’s metro areas. As shown in the figures below, there were notable revisions going back several years for Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Pine Bluff and Texarkana–all reflecting lower employment estimates. More recent revisions show slower growth in Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Memphis and Texarkana. Recent employment growth was revised higher for Fort Smith and Little Rock. These patterns are similar to the revisions from the payroll survey that we previously reported.

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

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment increased from February to March in six of the state’s metro areas, was unchanged in Memphis and down 0.2% in Hot Springs. The fastest growth rates were in Little Rock, Fayetteville, and Jonesboro. On a year-over-year basis, Little Rock is continuing to match the growth rate of the Fayetteville metro area, with Fort Smith also showing strong growth. Growth rates in Hot Springs and Jonesboro have recently slowed, while Memphis, Pine Bluff and Texarkana have seen employment declines over the past year.

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

Over the past four years (from February 2020) growth trends have varied widely among the state’s metro areas. Fayetteville’s 12.2% tops the list, with Little Rock and Jonesboro maintaining strong growth as well (higher than the U.S. average). On the other hand, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, and Memphis continue to show net job losses over the past four years.

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