Majority of Arkansas’ September job gains in three metro areas

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 669 views 

Arkansas’ three largest metro regions – areas with most of the workforce in the state – accounted for 78.3% of the state’s 45,532 year-over-year job gains in September, with the Northwest Arkansas metro contributing almost half (45%) of the year-over-year gains.

All eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas posted job gains in the September report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The September report is preliminary and subject to revision.

Central Arkansas – Little Rock, North Little Rock and Conway – had 337,234 employed in September, up 10,484 jobs, from the 326,750 in September 2020. The region’s jobless rate was 3.3% in September, below the 6.5% in September 2020.

Northwest Arkansas, the state’s second largest metro area, had an estimated 289,607 jobs in September, up 20,444 jobs from the 269,163 in September 2020. The region’s jobless rate was 2.2% in September, below the 4.4% in September 2020. November 2019 was the last time the jobless rate was 2.2% in the metro.

The Fort Smith metro, Arkansas’ third largest metro, had an estimated 116,036 jobs in September, up 4,833 jobs from 111,203 in September 2020. The region’s jobless rate was 2.7% in September, below the 5.6% in September 2020. At 2.9%, April 2019 was the last time the regional jobless rate was below 3%.

Northwest Arkansas had the lowest metro jobless rate in September (2.2%), and the Memphis-West Memphis had the highest rate at 4.9%. The state’s jobless rate in September was 4%, better than the 4.2% in August and below the 5.9% in September 2020.

Michael Pakko, chief economist and state economic forecaster at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said the Northwest Arkansas metro is the only state region in which employment is above pre-pandemic levels.

“In spite of recent gains, employment totals generally remain lower than the pre-pandemic month of February 2020. The exception is Northwest Arkansas, where employment is up 1.9%. Fort Smith is very close to achieving pre-pandemic levels of employment, while in Hot Springs, Little Rock and Texarkana, employment remains more than 3% below that benchmark month,” Pakko noted at his Arkansas Economist website.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in September than a year earlier in 386 of the 389 metropolitan areas, higher in 2 areas, and unchanged in 1 area, according to the BLS report. A total of 88 areas had jobless rates of less than 3% and 2 areas had rates of at least 10%.

Nonfarm payroll employment increased over the year in 90 metro areas and was essentially unchanged in 299 areas. The national unemployment rate in September was 4.6%, down from 7.7% a year earlier.

In September, Logan, Utah-Idaho, and Lincoln, Neb., had the lowest unemployment rates at 1.2% and 1.3%, respectively. El Centro, Calif., had the highest rate at 18.1%. A total of 251 areas had September jobless rates below the U.S. rate of 4.6%, 125 areas had rates above it, and 13 areas had rates equal to that of the nation.

METRO JOBS DATA
Following are labor market data for the eight metro areas.
• Northwest Arkansas
Labor force
September 2021: 296,134
September 2020: 281,630

Employment
September 2021: 289,607
September 2020: 269,163

Unemployed
September 2021: 6,527
September 2020: 12,467

Jobless rate
September 2021: 2.2%
September 2020: 4.4%

• Fort Smith metro (Arkansas-Oklahoma)
Labor force
September 2021: 119,316
September 2020: 117,862

Employment
September 2021: 116,036
September 2020: 111,203

Unemployed
September 2021: 3,280
September 2020: 6,659

Jobless rate
September 2021: 2.7%
September 2020: 5.6%

• Hot Springs
Labor force
September 2021: 41,004
September 2020: 40,873

Employment
September 2021: 39,424
September 2020: 37,552

Unemployed
September 2021: 1,580
September 2020: 3,321

Jobless rate
September 2021: 3.9%
September 2020: 8.1%

• Jonesboro
Labor force
September 2021: 66,526
September 2020: 65,152

Employment
September 2021: 64,817
September 2020: 61,742

Unemployed
September 2021: 1,709
September 2020: 3,410

Jobless rate
September 2021: 2.6%
September 2020: 5.2%

• Central Arkansas
Labor force
September 2021: 348,813
September 2020: 349,567

Employment
September 2021: 337,234
September 2020: 326,750

Unemployed
September 2021: 11,579
September 2020: 22,817

Jobless rate
September 2021: 3.3%
September 2020: 6.5%

• Memphis/West Memphis
Labor force
September 2021: 641,621
September 2020: 661,047

Employment
September 2021: 610,441
September 2020: 591,012

Unemployed
September 2021: 31,180
September 2020: 70,035

Jobless rate
September 2021: 4.9%
September 2020: 10.6%

• Pine Bluff
Labor force
September 2021: 33,804
September 2020: 34,264

Employment
September 2021: 32,200
September 2020: 31,584

Unemployed
September 2021: 1,604
September 2020: 2,680

Jobless rate
September 2021: 4.7%
September 2020: 7.8%

• Texarkana (Arkansas-Texas)
Labor force
September 2021: 63,278
September 2020: 63,174

Employment
September 2021: 60,347
September 2020: 58,862

Unemployed
September 2021: 2,931
September 2020: 3,762

Jobless rate
September 2021: 4.6%
September 2020: 6.8%