Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by Talk Business & Politics, and sponsored by Lowell-based Zero Mountain Logistics, a subsidiary of Fort Smith-based Zero Mountain. Supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Jobless rates for all eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas were lower in October than a year ago, with the Jonesboro metro outpacing Northwest Arkansas in the percentage rise of year-over-year job growth.
Jobless rates ranged from a low of 2.5% in Northwest Arkansas to a high of 5.4% in the Memphis-West Memphis metro, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data posted Wednesday (Nov. 30).
The BLS data – subject to revision for all metro areas – showed there were 19,011 jobs created between October 2015 and October 2016 in the state’s four metro areas that are covered by Talk Business & Politics’ The Compass Report. Central Arkansas had the most with 8,322 new jobs (up 2.49% compared to October 2015), followed by Northwest Arkansas with 7,215 (up 2.89%), the Jonesboro metro with 2,422 new jobs (up 4.1%), and the Fort Smith metro with 1,052 new jobs (up 0.9%).
There were an estimated 30,422 new jobs in Arkansas between October 2015-October 2016, according to the federal numbers, which means the four metro areas accounted for 62.5% of new jobs in October.
Following are key jobs data on the four metro areas.
CENTRAL ARKANSAS METRO
The central Arkansas metro area jobless rate was 3.1% in October, down from 3.6% in September and below the 3.9% in October 2015.
The size of the central Arkansas regional workforce during October was estimated at 353,399, below the 354,086 in September, and 1.28% more than the 348,912 in October 2015.
Central Arkansas’ metro employment of 342,420 in October was above the 341,349 in September, and up compared with the 334,098 during October 2015. Jobs in the metro set a record of 350,111 in July.
NORTHWEST ARKANSAS METRO
The Northwest Arkansas metro jobless rate was 2.5% in October, below the 2.9% in September, and below the 3.1% in October 2015. The historic jobless low for the metro is 2.1%, and was last reached in November 1999.
The size of the Northwest Arkansas regional workforce during October was 263,046, below the 263,762 during September, and 2.27% higher than the 257,197 in October 2015.
The number of employed in Northwest Arkansas totaled 256,377 in October, above the 256,048 in September, and up from the 249,162 employed in October 2015. Jobs in Northwest Arkansas set a record of 259,899 in July.
Unemployed persons in the region totaled an estimated 6,669 during October, down from 7,714 during September, and below the 8,035 during October 2015.
FORT SMITH METRO
Fort Smith’s metro jobless rate was 4.2% in October, down from 4.8% in September, and lower than the 4.9% in October 2015.
The size of the Fort Smith regional workforce during October was 121,873, down from 122,043 during September, and just above the 121,602 in October 2015. The labor force reached a revised high of 132,004 in June 2007, meaning the October workforce size is down 7.67% from the peak number.
The number of employed in the Fort Smith region totaled 116,704 in October, up from the 116,152 in September, and up 0.9% from the 115,652 employed in October 2015. The number of employed in the area is down 6.95% compared to the high of 125,426 in October 2006.
Unemployed persons in the region totaled an estimated 5,169 during October, down from the 5,891 during September, and below the 5,950 during October 2015.
The Jonesboro metro area jobless rate was 2.9% in October, down from 3.3% in September and below the 3.9% in October 2015. April marked the first time the metro posted a rate below 3%, when it hit 2.8%.
The size of the Jonesboro regional workforce during October was estimated at 63,218, below the 63,360 in September, and above the 61,354 in October 2015.
Jonesboro metro employment during October was 61,391, just above the 61,271 in September, and up 4.1% compared to the 58,969 during October 2015. Jobs in the metro set a record of 61,786 in July.
The number of unemployed in the region totaled an estimated 1,827 during October, down from 2,084 during September, and below the 2,385 during October 2015.
Unemployment rates were lower in October than a year earlier in 231 of the 387 metropolitan areas, higher in 127 areas, and unchanged in 29 areas, noted the broad BLS report. The lowest metro rate was 1.8% in Fargo, N.D., and the highest metro rate was 22% in El Centro, Calif.
The U.S. unemployment rate in October was 4.9%, down from 5% in September and down from 5% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 4% in October, unchanged from September and down from 4.9% in October 2015.
ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
October 2016: 2.5%
September 2016: 2.9%
October 2015: 3.1%
October 2016: 4.2%
September 2016: 4.8%
October 2015: 4.9%
October 2016: 3.9%
September 2016: 4.3%
October 2015: 5%
October 2016: 2.9%
September 2016: 3.3%
October 2015: 3.9%
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
October 2016: 3.1%
September 2016: 3.6%
October 2015: 3.9%
October 2016: 5.4%
September 2016: 5.5%
October 2015: 6.1%
October 2016: 4.7%
September 2016: 5.4%
October 2015: 5.8%
October 2016: 4.4%
September 2016: 5%
October 2015: 4.7%