Fort Smith jobless rate dips, but fewer employed

The shrinking size of the Fort Smith metro area helped push the November jobless rate lower, although the number of employed in the region was 553 fewer than October and 1,843 fewer than November 2011.

November’s jobless rate in the region was 7.6%, down from an upwardly revised 8% in October and below the 8.1% in November 2011.

All of the eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas had jobless rate decreases in November compared to October, and all eight areas had jobless rate declines compared to November 2011.

During November, the lowest metro jobless rate was in Northwest Arkansas with 4.6% and the highest rate was 8.3% in the Pine Bluff area.

According to figures released Tuesday (Jan. 8) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the size of the Fort Smith regional workforce during November was 127,380, down from the 128,490 during October, and below the 130,162 during November 2011.

November was the 47th consecutive month the metro jobless rate has been at or above 7%.

The regional labor force consistently remained above 130,000 beginning in October 2004, but fell below 130,000 in December. The labor force reached a high of 139,544 in June 2008.

The number of employed during November fell to 117,716 from 118,269 in October. The November employment was also below the 119,559  in November 2011.

FORT SMITH METRO NUMBERS
Unemployed persons in the region totaled an estimated 9,664 during November, below the 10,221 during October and below the 10,603 during November 2011.

The Fort Smith area manufacturing sector employed an estimated 19,100 in November, just below the 19,200 in October, but up over the 18,800 during November 2011. Employment in the sector is down more than 35% from more than a decade ago when January 2001 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 30,700.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — the region’s largest job sector —  totaled 24,000 in November, up from 23,700 in October, and above the 23,800 during November 2011. Employment in the sector is off from the high of 25,700 posted in December 2007.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 8,300 during November, down from 8,500 in October and unchanged compared to November 2011. The sector reached an employment high of 9,800 in November 2008.

In Education & Health Services, employment was 15,100 during November, down from 15,200 in October and below the 15,900 during November 2011.

In the Government sector, employment was 19,200 during November, up from 19,000 in October and unchanged compared to November 2011.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in November than a year earlier in 322 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 36 areas, and unchanged in 14 areas, noted the broad BLS report.

The U.S. unemployment rate in November was 7.8%, down from 8.2% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 7% in November, down from 7.2% in October and below the 7.9% rate in November 2011.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate during November was 5.2%, down from 5.3% during October, and below the 6.3% during November 2011. The Missouri jobless rate during November was 6.7%, compared to 6.9% in October and 8.1% during November 2011.

ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
Nov. 2012: 4.6%
Oct. 2012: 5%
Nov. 2011: 5.4%

Fort Smith
Nov. 2012: 7.6%
Oct. 2012: 8%
Nov. 2011: 8.1%

Hot Springs
Nov. 2012: 6.8%
Oct. 2012: 7.1%
Nov. 2011: 7.5%

Jonesboro
Nov. 2012: 6.2%
Oct. 2012: 6.5%
Nov. 2011: 6.5%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
Nov. 2012: 5.8%
Oct. 2012: 6%
Nov. 2011: 6.3%

Memphis-West Memphis
Nov. 2012: 7.7%
Oct. 2012: 8.6%
Nov. 2011: 9.1%

Pine Bluff
Nov. 2012: 8.3%
Oct. 2012: 8.4%
Nov. 2011: 9.3%

Texarkana
Nov. 2012: 5.6%
Oct. 2012: 6%
Nov. 2011: 6.8%

FORT SMITH METRO AREA HISTORY
Past annual average unemployment rates
2011: 8.6%
2010: 8.2%
2009: 7.9%
2008: 4.8%
2007: 5.3%
2006: 4.9%
2005: 4.5%
2004: 5.2%
2003: 5.5%
2002: 5%
2001: 4.2%
2000: 3.7%

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