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 rose slightly in February compared to January for seven of the eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas. The Northwest Arkansas metro added 5,146 jobs year-over-year, while central Arkansas and the Fort Smith metro lost 3,456 jobs and 1,593 jobs, respectively.
Metro jobless rates ranged from a low of 3.1% in Northwest Arkansas to a high of 5.7% in the Pine Bluff metro, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data posted Wednesday (April 5).
The BLS data – subject to revision for all metro areas – showed there were just 229 jobs created between February 2016 and February 2017 in the state’s four metro areas covered by Talk Business & Politics’ The Compass Report. Central Arkansas had 3,.456 jobs losses, Northwest Arkansas was up 5,146 jobs 7,215, the Jonesboro metro was up 132 new jobs (up 4.1%), and the Fort Smith metro posted a loss of 1,593 jobs.
Despite posted a record low jobless rate in February of 3.7%, Arkansas had 1,403 jobs losses in the February 2016-February 2017 period. Driving the counterintuitive link between a low rate and a year-over-year job loss was a 0.54% reduction in the state’s labor pool. Arkansas’ labor force in February was estimated at 1,337,882, down 7,398, from the 1,3345,280 in February 2016.
CENTRAL ARKANSAS METRO
The central Arkansas metro area jobless rate was 3.8% in February, up from 3.6% in January and below the 4.2% in February 2016.
Central Arkansas’ metro employment of 334,906 in February was above the 331,017 in January, but down compared with the 338,362 during February 2016. Jobs in the metro set a record of 350,111 in July.
The number of unemployed in the region totaled an estimated 13,369 during February, above the 12,516 during January, and below the 14,691 in February 2016.
NORTHWEST ARKANSAS METRO
The Northwest Arkansas metro jobless rate was 3.1% in February, above the 2.9% in January, and below the 3.3% in February 2016. 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 February was 267,161, well above the 260,799 during January, and above the 262,600 in February 2016.
The number of employed in Northwest Arkansas totaled 258,959 in February, above the 253,354 in January, and up from the 253,813 employed in February 2016. Jobs in Northwest Arkansas set a record of 268,347 in July.
Unemployed persons in the region totaled an estimated 8,202 during February, up from 7,445 during January, and below the 8,787 during February 2016.
FORT SMITH METRO
Fort Smith’s metro jobless rate was 4.7% in February, up from 4.5% in January, and lower than the 5.1% in February 2016.
The size of the Fort Smith regional workforce during February was 120,126, up from 119,017 during January, but below the 122,336 in February 2016. The labor force reached a revised high of 132,004 in June 2007, meaning the February workforce size is down 9% from the peak number.
The number of employed in the Fort Smith region totaled 114,451 in February, up from the 113,638 in January, and down 1.37% from the 116,044 employed in February 2016. The number of employed in the area is down 8.75% compared to the high of 125,426 in June 2006.
Unemployed persons in the region totaled an estimated 5,675 during February, up from the 5,379 during January, and below the 6,292 during February 2016.
The Jonesboro metro area jobless rate was 3.7% in February, up from 3.6% in January and below the 4.1% in February 2016. The metro jobless rate reached a record low of 2.8% in April.
The size of the Jonesboro regional workforce during February was estimated at 62,390, above the 61,273 in January, and below the 62,552 in February 2016.
Jonesboro metro employment during February was 60,107, just above the 59,056 in January, and just above the 59,975 during February 2016. Jobs in the metro set a record of 61,786 in July.
The number of unemployed in the region totaled an estimated 2,283 during February, above the 2,217 during January, and below the 2,577 during February 2016.
Unemployment rates were lower in February than a year earlier in 274 of the 388 metropolitan areas, higher in 88 areas, and unchanged in 26 areas, noted the broad BLS report. The lowest metro rate was 2.1% in Ames, Iowa., and the highest metro rate was 18.4% in El Centro, Calif.
The U.S. unemployment rate in February was 4.7%, down from 4.8% in January and down from 4.9% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 3.7% in February, down from 3.8% in January and down from 4.1% in February 2016.
ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
February 2017: 3.1%
January 2017: 2.9%
February 2016: 3.3%
February 2017: 4.7%
January 2017: 4.5%
February 2016: 5.1%
February 2017: 4.6%
January 2017: 4.5%
February 2016: 4.9%
February 2017: 3.7%
January 2017: 3.6%
February 2016: 4.1%
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
February 2017: 3.8%
January 2017: 3.6%
February 2016: 4.2%
February 2017: 5.1%
January 2017: 6%
February 2016: 5%
February 2017: 5.7%
January 2017: 5.6%
February 2016: 6.3%
February 2017: 5.2%
January 2017: 5.1%
February 2016: 4.6%