In a month where the statewide unemployment rate and payroll employment totals were essentially unchanged, labor market indicators for Arkansas’ metropolitan areas were mixed in April.
From March to April, unemployment rates declined slightly in Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith, Jonesboro and Little Rock; but increased in Memphis, Pine Bluff and Texarkana (Hot Springs was unchanged). One year ago, unemployment rates peaked during the harshest period of pandemic-related economic business closures. Since that time, rates have dropped significantly. The largest decline from a year ago was in Hot Springs, where the unemployment rate peaked at over 15% but had fallen to 5.9 by April 2021. The unemployment rate in Pine Bluff has only fallen 3.7 percentage points since April 2020, but at its peak was only 4.6 percentage points above pre-pandemic levels. All eight of the metro areas that include parts of Arkansas have higher unemployment rates than in February 2020, with net increases ranging from 0.9 percentage points in Northwest Arkansas and Pine Bluff to 2.8 percentage points in Memphis.
Nonfarm payroll employment increased in Fayetteville, Hot Springs, and Little Rock but was down across the state’s other metro areas. Net changes from a year ago reflect progress toward recovering lost employment, with the largest increase—over 17% in Hot Springs—reflects the magnitude of last year’s downturn. Employment has risen 10% over the past year in Fayetteville and Texarkana, leaving Fayetteville down less than one percent from pre-pandemic levels. Texarkana, which suffered a larger initial decline in employment last April, remains 4.0% below pre-pandemic levels.