Fort Smith metro jobs up 0.97% in February report, jobless rate at 4.4%

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 122 views 

Job numbers saw slight gains in February, with the jobless rate at 4.4%, unchanged from January and below the 4.6% in February 2018. The recent report also shows an estimated 1,100 more jobs year-over-year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The federal numbers are preliminary and subject to change.

The BLS data showed 113,856 jobs in the metro area in February, up 0.97%, or 1,100 jobs compared with the 112,756 jobs in February 2018. The February tally was also ahead of the 112,203 jobs in January. However, the February employment is down 11,570 jobs from peak employment of 125,426 in June 2006, a drop of 9.2%.

Metro labor force numbers show 119,037 available workers, up 0.72%, or 850, compared with the 118,187 in February 2018. The February tally is also above the 117,339 in January. The number of unemployed in February was an estimated 5,181, down from the 5,431 in February 2018, but just above the 5,136 in January.

Annual average employment per month showed signs of growth in 2016, but dipped in 2017. Following are the past six years of  annual average employment per month in the region. (December numbers are preliminary, meaning the 2018 average could change.
2018: 113,329
2017: 114,798
2016: 115,699
2015: 114,408
2014: 112,670
2013: 112,276

The record for average annual employment per month in the Fort Smith metro was 123,256 in 2007.

Following are the jobless rates among the four counties in the Fort Smith metro.
• Crawford County
February 2019: 4.3%
February 2018: 4.2%

• LeFlore County
February 2019: 5.5%
February 2018: 5%

• Sebastian County
February 2019: 4.3%
February 2018: 4.2%

• Sequoyah
February 2019: 5.2%
February 2018: 4.4%

SECTOR EMPLOYMENT
Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector, the region’s largest job sector, had an estimated 23,100 jobs, unchanged compared to January, and up from 23,000 in February 2018. The sector is off the peak of 24,700 in December 2007.

Manufacturing jobs were an estimated 17,700 in February, down from 17,800 in January, and down from 17,800 in February 2018. The sector has not replaced the jobs lost from the closure of Whirlpool Corp., Trane and other manufacturing operations that have closed in recent years. Manufacturing jobs reached a high of 31,200 jobs in June 1999, a loss of 13,500 jobs, or 43.2%.

Metro government jobs totaled 18,500 in February, up from 18,000 in January but below the 18,800 in February 2018. The sector first set an employment record of 18,900 in May 2017.

Education and Health Services jobs were an estimated 17,100 in February, up from 16,900 in January, and up from 17,000 in February 2018. The sector reached an employment record of 17,200 jobs in June 2018.

The Professional and Business Services sector posted 12,800 jobs in February, unchanged compared with January and below the 13,000 jobs in February 2018. The sector hit an employment record of 13,500 in April 2018.

Tourism jobs – the leisure and hospitality sector – totaled 9,200 in February, unchanged from January and above the estimated 9,100 in February 2018. Regional tourism employment hit a high of 10,100 in June 2016.

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