February report shows job numbers up in 5 of 8 Arkansas metro areas

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,054 views 

In what is likely the last pre-COVID-19 jobs report for metro areas, five of the eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas posted year-over-year job gains in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Northwest Arkansas posted the largest year-over-year job gain in the February jobs report among the eight metro areas. The region had almost 6,402 new jobs between February 2019 and February 2020, a rise of 2.4%. The region had 275,865 jobs in February, up from the 269,463 jobs in February 2019.

The Pine Bluff metro and the Memphis-West Memphis metro areas posted job declines of 477 and 488, respectively. The jobs decline in the Pine Bluff metro was 1.4% and a relatively flat 0.08% in the Memphis-West Memphis area. Central Arkansas posted an almost statistically insignificant loss of 39 jobs, or a decline of 0.01%.

As it was in the January report, the Jonesboro metro had the largest percentage of year-over-year job growth with 3.94%. The lowest jobless rate among the eight metro areas was 2.7% in Northwest Arkansas, with the Pine Bluff metro having the highest rate at 5.8%.

The number of employed in Arkansas during February was an estimated 1,319,479, up 5,516 jobs compared with February 2019. The state’s labor force – the number of people eligible to work – was 1,367,278 in February up 0.35% compared with the 1,362,467 in February 2019. Arkansas’ jobless rate in February was 3.5%, unchanged from January and below the 3.6% in February 2019.

Unemployment rates were lower in February than a year earlier in 277 of the 389 metropolitan areas, higher in 80 areas, and unchanged in 32 areas, according to the BLS report. A total of 73 areas had jobless rates of less than 3% and 6 areas had rates of at least 10%. Nonfarm payroll employment increased over the year in 34 metropolitan areas and was essentially unchanged in the remaining 355 areas. The national unemployment rate in February was 3.8%, down from 4.1% a year earlier.

In February, Ames, Iowa, had the lowest unemployment rate at 1.7%, while El Centro, Calif., had the highest unemployment rate at 17.1%. The February BLS report is preliminary and subject to revision.

UPDATED ARKANSAS ECONOMY ESTIMATE
University of Arkansas Little Rock economist Michael Pakko on Wednesday updated his analysis of the COVID-19 impact on the state economy. The update is guided by an April 2 update from IHS Markit about national economic impacts.

“The Arkansas unemployment rate was previously forecast to peak at 8.7%. The latest forecast suggests 9.2%. As dire as that sounds, the forecast for Arkansas is lower than the national projection of 10.3%,” Pakko noted.

He also said the new estimate paints an even bleaker picture than the first estimate.

“In a nutshell, the latest forecast projects far sharper downturns in employment and consumer spending, with deeper and broader effects. Nonfarm payrolls are expected to decline by over 100,000 and unemployment is expected to peak at 9.2%. Consumer spending is expected to be down over 9% in the second quarter. Most components of income are also expected to decline more sharply than in the previous forecast, but estimates of transfer payments stemming from the CARES Act are expected to buffer the impact on total personal income,” Pakko wrote.

Following are labor market data for the eight metro areas.

• Northwest Arkansas
Labor force
February 2020: 283,561
February 2019: 278,198

Employment
February 2020: 275,865
February 2019: 269,463

Unemployed
February 2020: 7,636
February 2019: 8,735

Jobless rate
February 2020: 2.7%
February 2019: 3.1%

• Fort Smith metro
Labor force
February 2020: 118,432
February 2019: 119,018

Employment
February 2020: 113,913
February 2019: 113,827

Unemployed
February 2020: 4,519
February 2019: 5,191

Jobless rate
February 2020: 3.8%
February 2019: 4.4%

• Hot Springs
Labor force
February 2020: 41,253
February 2019: 41,033

Employment
February 2020: 39,584
February 2019: 39,164

Unemployed
February 2020: 1,669
February 2019: 1,869

Jobless rate
February 2020: 4%
February 2019: 4.6%

• Jonesboro
Labor force
February 2020: 66,838
February 2019: 64,584

Employment
February 2020: 64,721
February 2019: 62,267

Unemployed
February 2020: 2,117
February 2019: 2,317

Jobless rate
February 2020: 3.2%
February 2019: 3.6%

• Central Arkansas
Labor force
February 2020: 354,753
February 2019: 355,721

Employment
February 2020: 341,902
February 2019: 341,941

Unemployed
February 2020: 12,851
February 2019: 13,780

Jobless rate
February 2020: 3.1%
February 2019: 3.9%

• Memphis/West Memphis
Labor force
February 2020: 642,245
February 2019: 638,861

Employment
February 2020: 614,164
February 2019: 614,652

Unemployed
February 2020: 28,081
February 2019: 24,209

Jobless rate
February 2020: 4.4%
February 2019: 3.8%

• Pine Bluff
Labor force
February 2020: 34,778
February 2019: 35,383

Employment
February 2020: 32,775
February 2019: 33,252

Unemployed
February 2020: 2,003
February 2019: 2,131

Jobless rate
February 2020: 5.8%
February 2019: 6%

• Texarkana (Arkansas-Texas)
Labor force
February 2020: 65,704
February 2019: 65,532

Employment
February 2020: 62,857
February 2019: 62,081

Unemployed
February 2020: 2,847
February 2019: 3,451

Jobless rate
February 2020: 4.3%
February 2019: 5.3%

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