Jonesboro continues to see low jobless numbers, annual average metro job gain up 6.5% since 2008

by George Jared ([email protected]) 202 views 

Jonesboro’s unemployment rate continues to be at a historically low rate, and in recent months has been below the national and state rate, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The city in May had an unemployment rate of 3.2%, a drop of seven-tenths of a point from January. In April, Jonesboro had a rate of 2.7%, the lowest it has been in more than two decades. The U.S. rate in May was 4.7%, and Arkansas posted a 3.8% May jobless rate.

Those low numbers are fueled by actual jobs created. The number of people employed in the city in May was 35,268, a spike of almost 800 jobs since the beginning of the year, according to the BLS data. Among the fastest growing job producers in the city are food manufacturers, with a growth rate of 4.5%, and support activities relating to transportation, which grew at 3.6%.

Rates do not reflect the totality of those without jobs and is merely one indicator. If someone unemployed has not sought a job within the last 30 days they are not counted toward the rate. The federal BLS considers a 4% unemployment rate as the threshold for full employment in a city or area.

Among major metropolitan areas of the state, Jonesboro had the second lowest rate in May. Only Northwest Arkansas at 3% was lower. Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway, and Fort Smith hovered near 4%.

Jonesboro has consistently paced the state in low unemployment numbers since the Great Recession ravaged the national economy, starting in 2008. The city had the lowest unemployment rate among Arkansas’ major metro areas during the recession. Also, the annual average number of jobs in the Jonesboro metro grew by an estimated 3,537 jobs between 2008 and 2015, a gain of 6.5%.

Following are the annual averages for the number of employed in the Jonesboro metro area since 2008.
2015: 57,946
2014: 55,607
2013: 54,723
2012: 54,831
2011: 55,339
2010: 53,985
2009: 53,089
2008: 54,409

The formula in Northeast Arkansas’ hub city is pretty simple, Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mark Young told Talk Business and Politics. The city isn’t dependent on one industry or one set of job creators, Young said. The city’s job base is diverse. Agriculture jobs, government and education, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and food service jobs provide the lion’s share of employment in the area, he said.

Many communities are dependent upon one business or industry, such as an automobile manufacturer, to drive their local economy, Young said. When that business or industry loses steam, everyone in those communities can be affected, he said.

“If the country is going through a tough economic time, we’re typically affected much less. … We’re not reliant on one job sector,” he said.

The lack of a single, major employer has its downside, too.

The median income in the city is $42,851, less than in other metro areas around the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin said wage growth is a problem civic leaders are tackling, he said. The Chamber began a new program to target and lure specific types of businesses and industries to the city, Young said. The goal is to raise wages, he said.

“I’m obviously pleased with the low unemployment rates,” Perrin said. “Jonesboro has a healthy jobs’ market, but we know we have more to do.”