This week we received the final metro area employment report covering 2023. For the month of December, unemployment rates were generally higher across the state, while changes in payroll employment were mixed.
As shown the table below, the change in unemployment rates in December were 0.1 percentage points higher than in November for Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, and Little Rock. The rate in Pine Bluff was up 0.2 percentage points and was unchanged in Texarkana. Only in Memphis was there a decline in the unemployment rate for the month.
The table also shows that nearly all of Arkansas’ metro areas saw unemployment rates declining over the first half of the year and increasing over the second half of the year. This pattern is also clear in the figure below, with the exception of Texarkana and Memphis. Statewide, the unemployment rate ended the year at the same place it started. That was also true for Northwest Arkansas Little Rock, and Memphis. Year-over-year changes in the unemployment rate were positive for Fort Smith and Jonesboro; negative for Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.
Nonfarm payroll employment showed mixed changes around the state, but increases tended to predominate. Employment was slightly higher in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, and Little Rock. Relatively large gains were recorded for Memphis and Texarkana. Hot Springs and Pine Bluff saw employment declines and Jonesboro was unchanged.
Year-over-year growth rates varied considerably among the metro areas. Northwest Arkansas continued its robust growth trend and Texarkana has a strong year of growth after languishing in 2021 and 2022. Employment was down in Hot Springs, Little Rock and Memphis.