Fort Smith metro workforce declines 4.14% in July, jobless rate rises to 6.5%

The Fort Smith regional economy workforce, which appeared to be stabilizing during the past year, took a negative turn in July with a 4.14% decline. The number of employed in the metro fell 2.35% in July compared to July 2013.

The metro jobless rate rose to 6.5% in July compared to 6.4% in June, but was lower than the 8.2% in July 2013, according to figures released Wednesday (Aug. 27) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The July numbers are subject to revision.

The size of the Fort Smith regional workforce during July was 125,055, down from 127,049 during June, and well below the 130,458 during July 2013s. The labor force reached a revised high of 140,253 in June 2007, meaning the July workforce size is down 10.83% from the peak number.

The number of employed in the Fort Smith region totaled 116,936 in July, down from 118,964 in June, and an estimated 2,820 jobs below the 119,756 employed in July 2013.

All of the eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas had jobless rate increases in July compared to June, but all had jobless rate declines compared to July 2013. During July, the lowest metro jobless rate in the state was 5.3% in Northwest Arkansas and the highest rate was 9.2% in the Pine Bluff area.

FORT SMITH METRO NUMBERS
Unemployed persons in the region totaled an estimated 8,119 during July, up from the 8,085 during June, but well below the 10,702 during July 2013.

The Fort Smith area manufacturing sector employed an estimated 18,100 in July, down from 18,400 in June, and down from 18,400 July 2013. Sector employment is down almost 36% from a decade ago when July 2004 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 28,500. Also, the annual average monthly employment in manufacturing has fallen from 28,900 in 2005, 19,200 in 2012, and to 18,300 in 2013.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector totaled 24,400 during July 2013, unchanged compared to June and above the 23,800 in July 2013. Employment in the sector reached a high of 25,700 in December 2007.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 9,800 during July, up from 9,700 in June and above the 9,500 in July 2013. The July numbers, if not revised, will tie a record for employment in the sector first set in August 2008.

In Education & Health Services, employment was 15,600 during July, down from 16,300 in June and below the 16,700 during July 2013. Annual average monthly employment in the sector has steadily grown since 2005 when it reached 14,000. In 2012 the average was 17,000, but fell slightly to 16,800 in 2013. Employment in the sector reached a record 17,300 in October 2012.

In the Government sector, employment was 16,500 during July, down compared to 18,800 in June and below the 16,500 July 2013.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in July than a year earlier in 348 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 16 areas, and unchanged in eight areas, noted the broad BLS report.

The U.S. unemployment rate in July was 6.2%, down from 7.3% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 6.2% in July, down from 6.3% in June and down from 7.7% in July 2013.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate during July was 4.6%, up from 4.5% in June, and down compared to 5.6% in July 2013. The Missouri jobless rate during July was 6.5%, down from 6.6% in June and below the 6.8% in July 2013.

ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
July 2014: 5.3%
June 2014: 4.9%
July 2013: 6.3%

Fort Smith
July 2014: 6.5%
June 2014: 6.4%
July 2013: 8.2%

Hot Springs
July 2014: 6.7%
June 2014: 6.5%
July 2013: 8.1%

Jonesboro
July 2014: 6.1%
June 2014: 6%
July 2013: 7.8%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
July 2014: 6%
June 2014: 5.8%
July 2013: 7.2%

Memphis-West Memphis
July 2014: 8.9%
June 2014: 8.7%
July 2013: 9.6%

Pine Bluff
July 2014: 9.2%
June 2014: 8.6%
July 2013: 10.9%

Texarkana
July 2014: 6.5%
June 2014: 6.3%
July 2013: 7.7%

FORT SMITH METRO AREA HISTORY
Past annual average unemployment rates
2013: 8%
2012: 7.7%
2011: 8.3%
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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