Northeast Arkansas’ largest county and its seat posted similar sales tax gains through the first two months of 2018, with both entities posting new monthly collection records.
Craighead County collected $3.706 million in sales and use tax the first two months of the year, a 2.5% increase compared with the same period in 2017, according to the Craighead County Treasurer’s Office.
Collections in January were almost even with collections from the previous year, but there was a record surge in February. The county surpassed $2 million in receipts ($2.045 million) for the first time in any month in the county’s history. The county’s previous high was $1.999 million collected in February 2017.
Jonesboro collected an all-time record $1.859 million in city sales and use tax in February, beating the previous high of $1.807 million collected in February 2016. For the year, the city has tallied $3.358 million, a 2.67% increase compared with the first two months of 2017.
The trends have been common in the county and city in recent years. Both set new records in sales tax collections in 2017. Craighead County collected $19.989 million in sales and use tax, a 3.1% ($616,288) increase from 2016. Jonesboro collected $17.830 million in sales and use taxes, a 2.91% increase ($504,075) from the previous year.
The county and city also set collection records in 2016. During the last five years Jonesboro’s collections have risen by 16%, and have steadily grown each year.
Civic leaders, economists, and others have competing theories as to why Northeast Arkansas has experienced consistent economic growth during the last four decades. The region’s diverse jobs base – agriculture, food processing, health and medical, Arkansas State University, professional services – have had an insulating effect, but economic gains are also tied to population growth.
Since the early 1970s, Jonesboro has grown by about 3% each year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As of 2016 the city had about 76,000 residents. Jonesboro was the fifth largest city in Arkansas based on population in the 2010 census. The city is the second largest in terms of geographic size, trailing Little Rock.
Unemployment numbers in the county steadily declined in 2017 and hit a near all-time low for a calendar year. Craighead County’s rate dropped five-tenths of a point throughout the year, ending December at 2.9%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The civilian labor force grew by 1,370 workers, ending the year at 52,626, down from a high of 55,237 in July.
Jonesboro had an identical drop in unemployment rates. It fell from 3.3% in January to 2.8% in December, 2017. The city’s civilian labor force grew by 989 workers to end the year at 36,991.