The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis on Thursday published its latest Little Rock Burgundy Book, a quarterly review of economic information for the Little Rock Zone of the Eighth District.
The Little Rock Zone includes the majority of Arkansas, except the northeast part of the state. The population in the Zone is approximately 2.5 million people, including the 500,000 who live in the Northwest Arkansas metropolitan statistical area.
The full report is available here.
According to economist and Burgundy Book researcher Kevin L. Kliesen, a February survey of Arkansas business contacts showed that a little less than 50 percent expect that economic conditions will worsen in 2016 compared with 2015.
This is a marked decline in sentiment from three months earlier, when only 14 percent of contacts expected economic conditions to worsen in 2016.
Measured from a year earlier, nonfarm payroll employment in the Little Rock MSA increased by 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Payroll employment growth was stronger in the Fayetteville (4.7 percent) and Texarkana (2.2 percent) MSAs, but was about unchanged in the Fort Smith MSA.
Revisions released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in March 2016 showed significantly faster employment growth in Little Rock and Fayetteville in 2015 than initially reported.
The Little Rock zone’s unemployment rate averaged 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, down 0.4 percentage points from the previous quarter and its lowest level since 2001.
Residential building activity was mixed across the zone in the fourth quarter, as single-family building permits rose in some areas and fell in others. Commercial vacancy rates, though, increased modestly in most segments.
Arkansas bankers reported that loan demand in the second quarter of 2016 is expected to be little changed from a year earlier.
According to the USDA estimates, Arkansas cropland values increased by 3.5 percent in 2015, its slowest growth since 2009.
The Little Rock report is part of the larger Burgundy Books publication, which offers comprehensive economic information for each of the Bank’s four zones: St. Louis, Little Rock, Louisville, Kentucky, and Memphis, Tennessee.