The city of Jonesboro’s economy may be in full surge mode if sales and use tax collections are an indication. The city collected $1.473 million in sales and use taxes in March, a 12.62% ($165,097) increase from the same month in 2018, according to figures released by the city. It’s the largest percentage monthly jump in about a year.
Since Jan. 1, the city has collected $4.993 million in sales and use taxes, a 6.98% increase as compared to the same three month period in 2018. When compared to the projected budget, the numbers are higher. The $4.993 million figure is 7.26% more than city officials allocated for the fiscal year to this point.
Craighead County, the largest county in Northeast Arkansas, continued its sales tax collection surge in recent months. In March, the county hauled in $1.619 million in sales and use taxes, an 11% ($162,000) increase from the same month in 2018. For the year, Craighead County has collected $5.535 million, a 7.2% increase ($372,000) from the first three months of the previous year.
Sales and use tax collections have a 60-day lag time, meaning the numbers in March represent taxes collected on sales in January, which is typically the highest collection month of the year for the city. Jonesboro serves as a hub in Northeast Arkansas drawing consumers from many outlying counties.
City officials had been worried in mid-2018 when sales tax figures took a steep drop. The numbers ultimately rebounded, and Jonesboro collected $18.184 million in city sales and use taxes in 2018, a 1.98% increase from 2017. Craighead County set an all-time collections record with $20.211 million, a little more than a 1% ($220,000) increase from 2017.
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, and 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 only Little Rock.