Fort Smith area August jobless rate declines

The Fort Smith regional jobless rate was 7.9% in August, down from a 8.5% in July and down from 8.8% in August 2011, but the 44th consecutive month the rate has been at or above 7%.

According to figures released Wednesday (Oct. 3) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the size of the regional workforce during August was 130,011, below the 130,664 during July, but well below the 132,073 during August 2011.

The regional labor force consistently remained above 130,000 beginning in July 2004, but fell below 130,000 in December. The labor force reached a high of 139,544 in June 2008.

The number of employed during August was 119,755, slightly ahead of the 119,517 in July, but below the 120,407 in August 2011.

All of the eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas had jobless rate declines in August compared to July, and were all down compared to August 2011. During August, the lowest metro jobless rate was in Northwest Arkansas with 5.3% and the highest rate was 8.9% in the Memphis/West Memphis metro.

FORT SMITH METRO NUMBERS
Unemployed persons in the region totaled 10,256 during August, below the 11,147 during July and below the 11,666 during August 2011.

The Fort Smith area manufacturing sector employed an estimated 19,500 in August, down compared to 20,100 in July, but up over the 19,000 during August 2011. Employment in the sector is down more than 36% from more than a decade ago when January 2001 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 30,700.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — the region’s largest job sector —  totaled 23,700 in August, up from 23,500 in July, and below the 23,900 during August 2011. Employment in the sector is off from the high of 25,700 posted in December 2007.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 8,700 during August, unchanged compared to July and August 2011. The sector reached an employment high of 9,800 in August 2008.

In Education & Health Services, employment was 15,200 during August, up from 14,900 in July, and below the 16,000 during August 2011.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in August than a year earlier in 325 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 40 areas, and unchanged in 7 areas, noted the broad BLS report. Also, five areas recorded jobless rates of at least 15%, while 29 areas registered rates of less than 5%.

The U.S. unemployment rate in August was 8.1%, down from 9.1% from a year earlier.

Arkansas’ jobless rate was 7.3% in August, unchanged from July and below the 8.2% rate in August 2011.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate during August was 5.1%, down from 4.9% during July, and below the 6.2% during August 2011. The Missouri jobless rate during August was 7.2%, unchanged from July, and below the 8.6% during August 2011.

ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
Aug. 2012: 5.3%
July 2012: 6.1%
Aug. 2011: 6.4%

Fort Smith
Aug. 2012: 7.9%
July 2012: 8.5%
Aug. 2011: 8.8%

Hot Springs
Aug. 2012: 7.3%
July 2012: 8%
Aug. 2011: 8.3%

Jonesboro
Aug. 2012: 6.6%
July 2012: 7.6%
Aug. 2011: 8.1%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
Aug. 2012: 6.3%
July 2012: 7%
Aug. 2011: 7.5%

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Memphis-West Memphis
Aug. 2012: 8.9%
July 2012: 9.6%
Aug. 2011: 10.3%

Pine Bluff
Aug. 2012: 8.8%
July 2012: 9.8%
Aug. 2011: 10.9%

Texarkana
Aug. 2012: 6.6%
July 2012: 7.1%
Aug. 2011: 8.1%

FORT SMITH METRO AREA HISTORY
Past annual average unemployment rates
2011: 8.6%
2010: 8.2%
2009: 7.9%
2008: 4.8%
2007: 5.3%
2006: 4.9%
2005: 4.5%
2004: 5.2%
2003: 5.5%
2002: 5%
2001: 4.2%
2000: 3.7%

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