The latest data on employment and unemployment for Arkansas’ metro areas indicates that unemployment rates have been increasing across the state. This morning’s news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “unemployment rates were lower in June than a year earlier in 224 of the 372 metropolitan areas…” Unfortunately, none of Arkansas’ metro areas were included in that total. In fact, unemployment rates in Arkansas have increased across the board during the second quarter of 2011.
On a month-to-month basis, some of the June unemployment rates reported today jumped substantially higher than May. However, higher unemployment in June is a recurring seasonal phenomenon. After adjusting for seasonality, the increases in unemployment rates were more modest — but they were increases, nonetheless. The June jump in unemployment was largest in Fort Smith (+0.5 percentage points), but was also substantial in Fayetteville, Hot Springs, and Pine Bluff (+0.3 percentage points each). Unemployment in the Little Rock MSA was essentially unchanged.
When the statewide data was released, we noted that June’s payroll survey indicated somewhat greater strength in labor markets than did the household survey. The same is true of the metro area data. Nonfarm payroll employment declined in four of the state’s MSAs, but increased in three. Hot Springs showed a particularly large drop in payroll employment in June. However, this only partly offset substantial increases registered in April and May. Compared to a year ago, employment in both Hot Springs and Texarkana are up more than one percent.
Relative to the statewide trough in employment registered in February 2010, all but one of Arkansas’ MSAs have shown positive growth. Employment in Pine Bluff remains 2.2% below the level of February 2010, but is slightly above a low-point registered in February 2011. Compared to the start of the recession, employment changes range from down 6.3% in Fort Smith to essentially unchanged in Jonesboro.