NWA jobless rate drops to 5.4% in August

After an uncharacteristic two months of jobless rate increases, the Northwest Arkansas jobless rate fell to 5.4% in August thanks to a decline of more than 1,200 in the number of unemployed.

Metro employment of 225,837 was down 0.08% compared to July 2013, but was up 2.02% compared to the number of employed in August 2012. The August jobless rate of 5.4% was down from 5.9% in July and down from 5.5% in August 2012, according to figures released Monday (Oct. 21) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

All eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas had jobless rate declines in August compared to July, but only three areas (Northwest Arkansas, Fort Smith and Jonesboro) had jobless rate decreases compared to August 2012.

During August, the lowest metro jobless rate in the state was in Northwest Arkansas and the highest rate was 9.8% in the Pine Bluff area.

The August report marked the 13th consecutive month that the region’s jobless rate has been at or below 6%.

NWA METRO NUMBERS
The size of the Northwest Arkansas regional workforce during August was estimated at 238,760, down from the 241,385 during July, and ahead of the 234,342 during August 2012.

June was the first month the region’s workforce has topped 240,000. The average annual monthly labor size was 231,461 during 2012, 227,938 during 2010 and 225,177 during 2009.

Following are other key figures from the BLS metro report.
Unemployed persons in the region totaled 12,923 during August, down from the 14,145 during July and just slightly below the 12,987 during August 2012.

The Northwest Arkansas manufacturing sector employed an estimated 27,000 in August, unchanged compared to July, and above the 26,800 during August 2012. Sector employment is down more than 21% from more than a decade ago when August 2002 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 34,300.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — the region’s largest job sector —  totaled 50,600 in August, down from a revised 50,800 during July, and up from the 47,700 during August 2012. The revised July employment level is a new record in Northwest Arkansas for the sector.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 22,100 during August, unchanged compared to July and up from 21,000 during August 2012. The August employment is a new record for the sector, although the figure could be revised in subsequent reports.

In Education & Health Services, employment was 25,100 during August, up from 24,900 during July and up from 23,400 during August 2012.

In the Government sector, employment was 27,900 during August, up from 26,600 in July and up compared to 27,600 during August 2012.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in August than a year earlier in 311 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 47 areas, and unchanged in 14 areas, noted the broad BLS report.

The U.S. unemployment rate in August was 7.3%, down from 8.1% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 7.4% in August, unchanged compared to July and up from 7.3% in August 2012.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate during August was 5.3%, unchanged compared to July, and unchanged compared to August 2012. The Missouri jobless rate during August was 7.2%, compared to 7.1% in July and up compared 7% in August 2012.

ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
August 2013: 5.4%
July 2013: 5.9%
August 2012: 5.5%

Fort Smith
August 2013: 7.2%
July 2013: 7.6%
August 2012: 7.9%

Hot Springs
August 2013: 7.5%
July 2013: 7.8%
August 2012: 7.3%

Jonesboro
August 2013: 6.7%
July 2013: 7.2%
August 2012: 6.8%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
August 2013: 6.5%
July 2013: 6.8%
August 2012: 6.5%

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Memphis-West Memphis
August 2013: 9.4%
July 2013: 9.5%
August 2012: 9.1%

Pine Bluff
August 2013: 9.8%
July 2013: 10.3%
August 2012: 9.2%

Texarkana
August 2013: 7.2%
July 2013: 7.3%
August 2012: 6.9%

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS METRO AREA HISTORY
Past annual average unemployment rates
2012: 5.6%
2012: 6.2%
2010: 6.5%
2009: 6.1%
2008: 4.1%
2007: 3.8%
2006: 3.6%
2005: 3.3%
2004: 3.8%
2003: 3.7%
2002: 3.3%
2001: 3%
2000: 2.9%

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