The Fort Smith metro economy has not returned to pre-COVID-19 job levels with the number of employed in August down 4.35% compared with August 2019, and the size of the workforce down 1.4%, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The region’s jobless rate in August was 6.6%, down from 7.2% in July but more than double the 3.7% in August 2019.
There were 109,534 jobs in the metro area in August, down almost 5,000 jobs from the 114,520 jobs in August 2019. The August number was above the 106,908 jobs in July. The August employment also is down 15,892 jobs from peak employment of 125,426 in June 2006, a drop of 12.7%. The August numbers from the BLS are preliminary and subject to change.
Metro labor force numbers show 117,261 available workers in August, down from the 118,957 in August 2019, and above the 115,239 in July. The number of unemployed in August was an estimated 7,727, well above the 4,437 in August 2019, but below the 8,331 in July.
Unemployment rates were higher in August than a year earlier in 387 of the 389 metropolitan areas and lower in 2 areas. The BLS report also noted that 37 metro areas had jobless rates of less than 5% and 6 areas had rates of at least 15%.
El Centro, Calif., had the highest unemployment rate in August at 22.9%, followed by Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii, at 20.7%. Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Logan, Utah-Idaho, had the lowest unemployment rates at 2.7% each. A total of 267 areas had August jobless rates below the U.S. rate of 8.5%, 111 areas had rates above it, and 11 areas had rates equal to that of the nation.
REGIONAL SECTOR EMPLOYMENT
Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector, the region’s largest job sector, had an estimated 23,700 jobs, up from 23,200 in July, and up from 23,100 in August 2019. The sector is off the peak of 24,700 in December 2007.
Manufacturing jobs were an estimated 16,500 in August, unchanged from July, and down from the 17,400 in August 2019. Manufacturing jobs reached a high of 31,200 jobs in June 1999, a loss of 14,700 jobs, or 47.1%, as of August.
Metro government jobs totaled 16,800 in August, up from 15,400 in July and down from 17,200 in August 2019. The sector first set an employment record of 18,900 in May 2017.
Education and Health Services jobs were an estimated 16,500 in August, unchanged from July, and down from the 17,200 in August 2019. The sector had record employment of 17,500 in June 2019.
The Professional and Business Services sector posted 11,500 jobs in August, up from 11,300 in July and below the 12,100 in August 2019. The sector hit an employment record of 13,600 in April 2018.
Tourism jobs – the leisure and hospitality sector – totaled 9,000 in August, down from 9,100 July and below the 9,700 in August 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 declined in the following three years. Following are the past seven 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.
August 2020: 6.3%
August 2019: 3.6%
August 2020: 6.5%
August 2019: 4.6%
August 2020: 6.9%
August 2019: 3.4%
August 2020: 6%
August 2019: 4.1%