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Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – May 2024

The latest information on metro area employment and unemployment showed stability in labor markets across the state. Unemployment rates were unchanged in all of Arkansas’ metro areas except for Texarkana, where the rate ticked up by 0.1 percentage points.

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

Meanwhile, changes in nonfarm payroll employment were mixed. Employment increased n Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, and Jonesboro. Declines were registered for Central Arkansas, Memphis, and Pine Bluff. Texarkana–the only metro area to see a change in the unemployment rate–had payroll employment that was essentially unchanged from the previous month.

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

Over the longer run, employment growth trends have diverged considerably. Over the past year Fayetteville continues to be the most rapidly growing metro area in the state, followed by Little Rock and Fort Smith. Growth in Jonesboro slowed in 2022 and 2023, but has picked up thus far in 2024. Hot Springs is down slightly over the past 12 months, and has seen little growth since mid 2022. Memphis, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana remain in the doldrums, with employment levels lower than at the onset of the Covid Contraction.

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

With little other information of interest to consider regarding metropolitan areas, this is an opportune time to look at a snapshot of county-level unemployment rates around the state. On the map below, the metro areas with the lowest unemployment rates (Northeast, Northwest, and Central) stand out, with Benton and Washington counties having the lowest rates of all (2.4% and 2.3%, respectively). Counties with unemployment rates above 5% are clustered in the southeastern part of the state, with the highest unemployment rates in Chicot and Desha counties (both at 5.7%).