A small gain in new jobs combined with a decline in the available workforce resulted in a Fort Smith metro jobless rate of 3.5% in March, down from 4.4% in February and better than the 4% in March 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The federal numbers are preliminary and subject to change.
The BLS data showed 114,117 jobs in the metro area in March, up 0.25%, or 290 jobs compared with the 113,827 jobs in February. However, the March tally was lower than the 115,047 jobs in March 2018. The March employment also is down 11,309 jobs from peak employment of 125,426 in June 2006, a drop of 9%.
Metro labor force numbers show 118,211 available workers, down from the 119,860in February and below the 119,018 in March 2018. The number of unemployed in March was an estimated 4,094, down from the 4,813 in March 2018, and well below the 5,191 in February.
EMPLOYMENT HISTORY, COUNTY RATES
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.
The record for average annual employment per month in the Fort Smith metro was 123,254 in 2007.
Following are the jobless rates among the four counties in the Fort Smith metro.
March 2019: 3.2%
March 2018: 3.6%
March 2019: 4.4%
March 2018: 4.8%
March 2019: 3.1%
March 2018: 3.7%
March 2019: 4%
March 2018: 4.7%
Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector, the region’s largest job sector, had an estimated 22,800 jobs, down from 23,000 in February, and down from 23,000 in March 2018. The sector is off the peak of 24,700 in December 2007.
Manufacturing jobs were an estimated 17,600 in March, down from 17,900 in February, and down from 17,700 in March 2018. Manufacturing jobs reached a high of 31,200 jobs in June 1999, a loss of 13,600 jobs, or 43.6%.
Metro government jobs totaled 18,500 in March, down from 18,900 in February and unchanged compared with March 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 March, up from 17,000 in February, and unchanged compared with March 2018. The sector reached an employment record of 17,200 jobs in June 2018.
The Professional and Business Services sector posted 13,000 jobs in March, unchanged compared with February and March 2018. The sector hit an employment record of 13,500 in April 2018.
Tourism jobs – the leisure and hospitality sector – totaled 9,400 in March, up from 9,300 in February and above the estimated 9,200 in March 2018. Regional tourism employment hit a high of 10,100 in June 2016.