February jobless rates fall in all Arkansas metro areas, range from 3.3% to 6.3%

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 134 views 

All of the eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas had jobless rate declines in February compared to February 2015. Arkansas’ three largest metro areas posted year-over-year job gains, with Northwest Arkansas up 8.18%, central Arkansas up 4.34%, and the Fort Smith metro up 2.41%.

During February, the lowest metro jobless rate in the state was 3.3% in Northwest Arkansas and the highest rate was 6.3% in the Pine Bluff area, according to figures posted Wednesday (April 6) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. February data is subject to revision.

Five of the metro areas had jobless rate declines compared to January, two were unchanged and one was higher than January. (See chart at end of story.)

• Central Arkansas
The February jobless rate in central Arkansas was 4.2%, above the 4% in January and below the 5.3% in February 2015.

Metro employment during February of 338,163 was above the 332,636 in January, and up 14,069 jobs compared to the 324,094 in February 2015 – a gain of 4.34%. The size of the central Arkansas regional workforce during February was estimated at 352,843 above the 346,621 in January, and better than the 342,388 in February 2015.

The central Arkansas metro set a new record in the leisure and hospitality sector (tourism) with an estimated 34,300 jobs, which was better than the 31,500 jobs in February 2015. Government employment, the region’s largest sector, had 71,300 jobs in February, up compared to 71,100 in February 2015. Record employment in the sector was 72,100 in March 2013.

• Northwest Arkansas
Northwest Arkansas’ jobless rate fell to 3.3% in February, unchanged compared to January and well below the 4.4% in February 2015. February metro employment was 254,061, up from 246,838 in January, and up an impressive 17,236 jobs, or 8.18%, compared to the 234,846 in February 2015.

The size of the Northwest Arkansas regional workforce during February was estimated at 262,828, down from the 255,142 in January, and above the the 245,592 in February 2015. Barring a revision, February marks the first time the metro workforce topped 260,000, and the first time employment topped 250,000.

Trade, transportation and utilities – the region’s largest sector – had 55,200 jobs in February, up from 52,000 in February 2015, but off the record of 56,400 set in December.

Tourism jobs in the metro area totaled 25,000 in February, above the 22,100 in February 2015. If the February number stands, it will mark a new record for the sector. The previous record of 24,700 was sent in November.

• Fort Smith metro
The Fort Smith metro jobless rate in February was 5.1%, unchanged from January but down from 6% in February 2015.

The number of employed in the Fort Smith region totaled 116,267 in February, up from 114,611 in January, and up an estimated 2,744 jobs compared to the 113,523 employed in February 2015. February market the first time the number of jobs has been above 116,000 since September 2010. The number of employed in the metro area is down 7.3% compared to the revised high of 125,426 in February 2006 – or 9,159 fewer jobs than the peak metro employment.

Manufacturing jobs in February were 17,900, up from 17,800 in February 2015. However, the troubled sector is still well below the 28,000 jobs just 10 years ago in February 2006.

The region’s tourism sector employed 9,200, up from 8,900 in February 2015. The sector set a record of 9,700 in May 2015.

The jobless rate in the Jonesboro metro area during February was 4.1%, down from 4.2% in January and below the 5.4% in February 2015.

Metro employment during February of 59,882 was just below the estimated 59,252 in January, and up compared to the 57,852 in February 2015. The size of the Jonesboro metro workforce during February was estimated at 62,461, up from 61,824 in January, and better than the 61,165 in February 2015. Employment in the metro is slightly off the high of 60,455 set in October 2015.

Unemployment rates were lower in February than a year earlier in 296 of the 387 U.S. metro areas, higher in 76 areas, and unchanged in 15, noted the broad BLS report.

The U.S. unemployment rate in February was 4.9%, unchanged from January and down from 5.5% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 4.2% in February, down from 4.4% in January and down from 5.6% in February 2015.

February 2016: 3.3%
January 2016: 3.3%
February 2015: 4.4%

Fort Smith
February 2016: 5.1%
January 2016: 5.1%
February 2015: 6%

Hot Springs
February 2016: 4.9%
January 2016: 5%
February 2015: 6.2%

February 2016: 4.1%
January 2016: 4.2%
February 2015: 5.4%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
February 2016: 4.2%
January 2016: 4%
February 2015: 5.3%

Memphis-West Memphis
February 2016: 5%
January 2016: 5.5%
February 2015: 7%

Pine Bluff
February 2016: 6.3%
January 2016: 6.4%
February 2015: 7.9%

February 2016: 4.5%
January 2016: 4.7%
February 2015: 5.5%