Metro jobless rate ticks higher to 3.4%, year-over-year job growth is flat

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 337 views 

The Fort Smith metro jobless rate was 3.4% in November, up from 3.3% in November 2018, with the region seeing only marginal changes in the size of the available workforce and the number of employed, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

BLS data showed 114,805 jobs in the metro area in November, just 20 jobs more than 114,785 jobs in November 2018. The November tally was higher than the 114,673 jobs in October. The November employment also is down 10,621 jobs from peak employment of 125,426 in June 2006, a drop of 8.46%. The November numbers from the BLS are preliminary and subject to change.

Metro labor force numbers show 118,861 available workers in November, up from the 118,675 in November 2018, and above the 118,795 in October. The number of unemployed in November was an estimated 4,056, more than the 3,890 in November 2018, and below the 4,122 in October.

The November unemployment rate in Northwest Arkansas was 2.2%, down from 2.4% in November 2018. Central Arkansas’ jobless rate was 3%, up from 2.9% in November 2018. The Jonesboro metro rate was 2.5%, down from 2.7% in November 2018.

The BLS also noted that unemployment rates were lower in November than a year earlier in 223 of the 389 metropolitan areas, higher in 137 areas, and unchanged in 29 areas. In November, Logan, Utah-Idaho, and Ames, Iowa, had the lowest unemployment rates at 1.5% and 1.6% respectively. El Centro, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz., had the highest unemployment rates at 20.6% and 15.4%, respectively.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector, the region’s largest job sector, had an estimated 23,500 jobs, up from 23,100 in October, and down from 23,600 in November 2018. The sector is off the peak of 24,700 in December 2007.

Manufacturing jobs were an estimated 18,000 in November, up from 17,800 in October, and above the 17,900 in November 2018. Manufacturing jobs reached a high of 31,200 jobs in June 1999, a loss of 13,200 jobs, or 42%, as of November.

Metro government jobs totaled 18,400 in November, up from 18,300 in October and below the 18,500 in November 2018. The sector first set an employment record of 18,900 in May 2017.

Education and Health Services jobs were an estimated 17,500 in November, up from the 17,300 in October, and up from the 17,100 in November 2018. The November figure sets a new record for employment in the sector.

The Professional and Business Services sector posted 12,800 jobs in November, down from 12,900 in October and below the 13,200 in November 2018. The sector hit an employment record of 13,500 in May 2018.

Tourism jobs – the leisure and hospitality sector – totaled 9,400 in November, down from 9,500 in October and above the 9,300 in November 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
November 2019: 3.1%
November 2018: 3.2%

LeFlore County
November 2019: 4.7%
November 2018: 4.3%

Sebastian County
November 2019: 3.1%
November 2018: 3.2%

Sequoyah County
November 2019: 3.7%
November 2018: 4.1%