In September, unemployment rates edged down in five of Arkansas’ metro areas and were unchanged in the other three. Smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates of unemployment were down 0.1 percentage point in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana. Rates were unchanged in Hot Springs, Jonesboro, and Memphis. Since September of 2013, unemployment rates have fallen more than a full percentage in all of the state’s metro areas.
While unemployment rates continue to trend downward, payroll employment growth rates are diverging among Arkansas metro areas. In September, employment was down in Hot Springs and Memphis, was unchanged in Pine Bluff, and was up in the remaining MSAs. The largest increases were in Jonesboro (+1.7%) and Fayetteville (+1.0%). Over the past 12 months, employment has increased in every metro area except Pine Bluff.
As show in the last column of the table above and in the chart below, the longer-run trends of payroll employment differ considerably among metro areas. Fayetteville and Jonesboro continue to see employment growth well above the previous cyclical peak. As of September, Little Rock joined the list of metro areas where employment exceeded pre-recession levels. In the remaining metro areas, employment growth since December 2007 remains negative. In Fort Smith, Pine Bluff and Texarkana, employment has fallen, on net, since the labor market recovery began in February 2010.