Year-over-year job growth in the Fort Smith metro was a scant 0.66% in January, although the metro jobless rate fell to 4.1% from 4.4% in January 2019. The number of unemployed fell 6.6% in the year-over-year comparison.
Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed 112,944 jobs in the metro area in January, 741 jobs more than 112,203 jobs in January 2019. The January number was below than the 113,886 jobs in December. The January employment also is down 12,482 jobs from peak employment of 125,426 in June 2006, a drop of 10%. The January numbers from the BLS are preliminary and subject to change.
Metro labor force numbers show 117,741 available workers in January, up from the 117,339 in January 2019, but below the 118,097 in December. The number of unemployed in January was an estimated 4,797, down from the 5,136 in January 2019, and more than the 4,211 in December.
The January unemployment rate in Northwest Arkansas was 2.9%, down from 3.2% in January 2019. Central Arkansas’ jobless rate was 3.7%, down from 3.9% in January 2019. The Jonesboro metro rate was 3.4%, down from 7.7% in January 2019.
Unemployment rates were lower in January than a year earlier in 292 of the 389 metropolitan areas, higher in 77 areas, and unchanged in 20 areas. Also, 51 areas had jobless rates of less than 3% and 4 areas had rates of at least 10%. The national unemployment rate in January was 4%, down from 4.4% a year earlier.
REGIONAL SECTOR EMPLOYMENT
Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector, the region’s largest job sector, had an estimated 23,000 jobs, down from 23,700 in December, and down from 23,200 in January 2019. The sector is off the peak of 24,700 in December 2007.
Manufacturing jobs were an estimated 17,500 in January, down from 17,600 in December, and down from the 17,600 in January 2019. Manufacturing jobs reached a high of 31,200 jobs in June 1999, a loss of 13,700 jobs, or 44%, as of January.
Metro government jobs totaled 18,200 in January, down from 18,600 in December but above the 18,100 in January 2019. The sector first set an employment record of 18,900 in May 2017.
Education and Health Services jobs were an estimated 17,000 in January, down from the 17,300 in December, and below the 17,200 in January 2019. The sector had record employment of 17,500 in June 2019.
The Professional and Business Services sector posted 11,400 jobs in January, down from 12,100 in December and below the 12,200 in January 2019. The sector hit an employment record of 13,600 in April 2018.
Tourism jobs – the leisure and hospitality sector – totaled 9,100 in January, down from 9,200 in December and above the 9,000 in January 2019. Regional tourism employment hit a high of 10,100 in June 2016.
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.
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.
January 2020: 4%
January 2019: 4.4%
January 2020: 4.6%
January 2019: 5.4%
January 2020: 3.9%
January 2019: 4%
January 2020: 4.3%
January 2019: 4.8%