Metro jobless rate ticks higher to 3.5% in October, number of employed down 0.1%

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 162 views 

The Fort Smith metro jobless rate was 3.5% in October, up from 3.4% in October 2018, with the region seeing a slight decline in the number of employed and a gain in the number of unemployed, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

BLS data showed 114,723 jobs in the metro area in October, down 0.1% compared with the 114,840 jobs in October 2018. The October tally was higher than the 114,175 jobs in September. The October employment also is down 10,703 jobs from peak employment of 125,426 in June 2006, a drop of 8.5%.

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

Metro labor force numbers show 118,840 available workers in October, down from the 118,933 in October 2018, but above the 118,302 in September. The number of unemployed in October was an estimated 4,117, more than the 4,093 in October 2018, and below the 4,127 in September.

The October unemployment rate in Northwest Arkansas was 2.3%, down from 2.5% in October 2018. Central Arkansas’ jobless rate was 3%, unchanged from October 2018. The Jonesboro metro rate was 2.6%, down from 2.8% in October 2018.

The BLS also noted that unemployment rates were lower in October than a year earlier in 240 of the 389 metropolitan areas, higher in 121 areas, and unchanged in 28 areas. In October, Ames, Iowa, and Burlington-South Burlington, Vt., had the lowest unemployment rates at 1.3% each. El Centro, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz., had the highest unemployment rates at 21.2% and 16.1%, respectively.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector, the region’s largest job sector, had an estimated 23,100 jobs, up from 22,700 in September, and unchanged from October 2018. The sector is off the peak of 24,700 in December 2007.

Manufacturing jobs were an estimated 17,800 in October, unchanged from September, and above the 17,600 in October 2018. Manufacturing jobs reached a high of 31,200 jobs in June 1999, a loss of 13,400 jobs, or 43%, as of October.

Metro government jobs totaled 18,300 in October, unchanged from September and below the 18,500 in October 2018. The sector first set an employment record of 18,900 in May 2017.

Education and Health Services jobs were an estimated 17,400 in October, up from the 17,300 in September, and up from the 17,200 in October 2018. The October figure ties the employment record first set in June 2019.

The Professional and Business Services sector posted 12,900 jobs in October, unchanged from September and below the 13,100 in October 2018. The sector hit an employment record of 13,500 in May 2018.

Tourism jobs – the leisure and hospitality sector – totaled 9,400 in October, down from 9,500 in September and unchanged from October 2018. Regional tourism employment hit a high of 10,100 in June 2016.

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
October 2019: 3.2%
October 2018: 3.5%

LeFlore County
October 2019: 4.4%
October 2018: 4%

Sebastian County
October 2019: 3.2%
October 2018: 3.4%

Sequoyah County
October 2019: 3.9%
October 2018: 3.7%