Jobless rate hits record low in Fort Smith area, but job numbers decline

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 428 views 

The Fort Smith metro jobless rate fell to a record low of 2.9% in April, with all four counties in the region below 4%. The April 2018 rate was 3.7%. However, the number of employed in the area was down compared with April 2018.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed 115,159 jobs in the metro area in April, down an estimated 736 jobs compared with the 115,895 jobs in April 2108. The April tally was higher than the 114,090 jobs in March. The April employment also is down 10,267 jobs from peak employment of 125,426 in June 2006, a drop of 8.2%.

Metro labor force numbers show 118,592 available workers, up from the 118,191 in March but below the 120,290 in April 2018. The number of unemployed in April was an estimated 3,433, down from the 4,395 in April 2018, and below the 4,101 in March.

The April numbers from the BLS are preliminary and subject to change.

The April unemployment rate in Northwest Arkansas was 2%, down from 2.5% in April 2018. Central Arkansas’ jobless rate was 2.6%. down from 3.1% in April 2018. The Jonesboro metro rate was 2.3%, down from 2.9% in April 2018.


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.
2018: 114,870
2017: 115,156
2016: 115,579
2015: 114,411
2014: 112,705
2013: 112,276

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.
Crawford County
April 2019: 2.7%
April 2018: 3.3%

LeFlore County
April 2019: 3.9%
April 2018: 4.3%

Sebastian County
April 2019: 2.6%
April 2018: 3.4%

April 2019: 3.3%
April 2018: 4.3%

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector, the region’s largest job sector, had an estimated 23,200 jobs, up from 22,800 in March, and just ahead of the 23,100 in April 2018. The sector is off the peak of 24,700 in December 2007.

Manufacturing jobs were an estimated 17,600 in April, unchanged from March, and down from 17,700 in April 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 18,600 in April, down from 18,500 in March and below the 18,900 in April 2018. The sector first set an employment record of 18,900 in May 2017.

Education and Health Services jobs were an estimated 17,200 in April, up from 17,100 in March, and up from the 17,000 in April 2018. The April figure ties the record for employment first set in June 2018.

The Professional and Business Services sector posted 13,400 jobs in April, up from 13,000 in March and below the 13,500 in April 2018. The sector hit an employment record of 13,500 in April 2018.

Tourism jobs – the leisure and hospitality sector – totaled 9,600 in April, up from 9,400 in March and above the 9,500 in April 2018. Regional tourism employment hit a high of 10,100 in June 2016.