Data on metro area unemployment rates that came out earlier this week indicated that Arkansas metro areas are generally not following the improving trend seen in the nationwide data. The news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that November unemployment rates were lower than a year earlier in 293 of the nation’s 372 metropolitan areas. In Arkansas, only Fort Smith was included in this count. As shown in the table below, year-over-year unemployment rate increases ranged from +0.1% in Fayetteville and Jonesboro to +1.1% in Pine Bluff. The rate was down 0.4% in Fort Smith.
Smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates for unemployment showed monthly increases in Hot Springs, Little Rock, Memphis, and Texarkana. The unemployment rate in Fort Smith was down 0.1% from the previous month. For the remaining metro areas (and the statewide average), unemployment was unchanged from October to November.
Payroll employment data for Arkansas metro areas were mixed. Although statewide employment increased by 3,000 (+0.3%) in November, three of the state’s metro areas showed monthly declines (Fort Smith, Jonesboro, and Texarkana) and employment in Pine Bluff was unchanged. The four remaining metro areas saw increases ranging from 0.2% in Little Rock to 0.8% in Hot Springs. Compared to a year ago, payroll employment is down Hot Springs, Pine Bluff and Texarkana, but has increased in the remaining metro areas.
Since the employment trough of February 2010, most of the state’s metro areas have shown net employment increases. However, employment in Texarkana seen a recent decline that erased earlier gains and employment in Pine Bluff has continued a downward trend that began well before the 2008-09 recession. Compared to the pre-recession peak, only three metro areas have shown net increases: Jonesboro, Fayetteville, and Little Rock.