Unemployment rates in Arkansas’ metro areas continue to trend downward. For the period from May 2013 through May 2014, not-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show declines ranging from 0.9 percentage points in Fayetteville and Little Rock to 1.7 percentage points in Memphis. Statewide, the unemployment rate has fallen 1.1 percentage points over the past 12 months.
On a month-to-month basis, the not seasonally adjusted data indicate that unemployment rates moved higher in May. However, this is a typical seasonal effect. Unemployment rates usually rise in the early to mid-summer — in part due to effects related to the end of the school year. After adjusting for these recurring seasonal patterns, unemployment rates declined in May for all eight of Arkansas’ metro areas. The Smoothed Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates show declines of 0.2 percentage points in Jonesboro, Pine Bluff and Texarkana; and declines of 0.1 percentage points in the other five metro areas. A graph of the smoothed seasonally-adjusted estimates (below) illustrates the downward trend that has prevailed across all of Arkansas’ metro areas since late last summer.
In the other half of the metropolitan area report, payroll employment continued to be disappointingly weak across the state. Total employment was down in six of the eight metro areas, with small increases in Fayetteville and Memphis. Compared to a year ago, employment is higher in all metro areas except Texarkana — but the gains are relatively small. Year-over-year employment growth has been positive but less than one percent in Fort Smith, Memphis and Pine Bluff. Payroll employment is still lower than its pre-recession peak an all metro areas except Fayetteville and Jonesboro.