Fort Smith area jobless rate ticks higher in October

Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by The City Wire and presented by Fort Smith-based Benefit Bank. Other supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Small year-over-year gains in the Fort Smith metro workforce and the number of employed saw the October metro jobless rate fall to 7.3% compared to 7.5% in October 2012. However, the October rate increased from 7.2% in September.

October did see record employment levels in the region’s Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector and the Education and Health Services sector.

Metro employment of 133,430 was relatively flat compared to the 133,231 in October 2012 and the 133,460 in September 2013, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

October was the 58th consecutive month the Fort Smith metro jobless rate has been at or above 7%.

Six of the eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas had jobless rate increases in October compared to October 2012, and five areas (Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Little Rock/North Little Rock, Memphis and Pine Bluff) had jobless rate increases compared to September.

During October, the lowest metro jobless rate in the state was in Northwest Arkansas with 5.1% and the highest rate was 9.6% in the Pine Bluff area.

FORT SMITH METRO NUMBERS
The size of the Fort Smith regional workforce during October was 133,430, down from the 133,460 during September, and above the 133,231 during October 2012. The labor force reached a revised high of 140,253 in September 2007. The average annual monthly labor size was 133,028 during 2012, 133,275 during 2011, 135,590 during 2010, 134,751 and during 2009.

Unemployed persons in the region totaled an estimated 9,705 during October, up from the 9,705 during September, and below the 10,0032 during October 2012.

The Fort Smith area manufacturing sector employed an estimated 18,500 in October, unchanged compared to September, and below the 18,900 during October 2012. Employment in the sector is down almost 35% from a decade ago when October 2003 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 28,700. Also, the annual average monthly employment in manufacturing has fallen from 28,900 in 2005 to 19,200 in 2012 – the first year the average has dropped below 20,000 since surpassing that level.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — the region’s largest job sector —  totaled 26,100 in October, up compared to 25,600 in September, and above the 24,800 during October 2012. The October estimate is a new high for employment in the sector.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 9,400 during October, unchanged compared to September and above the 9,000 in October 2012. The sector reached an employment high of 9,800 in August 2008.

In Education & Health Services, employment was 18,200 during October, up from 18,000 in September and above the 17,200 during October 2012. The October employment level is a record for sector employment in the Fort Smith area. Annual average monthly employment in the sector has steadily grown since 2005 when it reached 14,000. In 2012 the average was 17,100.

In the Government sector, employment was 19,700 during October, up from 19,300 in September and above the 19,600 in October 2012.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in October than a year earlier in 280 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 79 areas, and unchanged in 13 areas, noted the broad BLS report.

The U.S. unemployment rate in October was 7.3%, down from 7.9% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 7.5% in October, up from 7.4% in September and up from 7.2% in October 2012.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate during October was 5.5%, up from 5.4% in September, and up from 5.2% in October 2012. The Missouri jobless rate during October was 6.5%, down from 6.9% in September and down from 6.7% in October 2012.

ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
Oct. 2013: 5.1%
Sept. 2013: 5.2%
Oct. 2012: 5%

Fort Smith
Oct. 2013: 7.3%
Sept. 2013: 7.2%
Oct. 2012: 7.5%

Hot Springs
Oct. 2013: 7.8%
Sept. 2013: 7.6%
Oct. 2012: 6.9%

Jonesboro
Oct. 2013: 6.4%
Sept. 2013: 6.4%
Oct. 2012: 6.4%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
Oct. 2013: 6.5%
Sept. 2013: 6.4%
Oct. 2012: 5.9%

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Memphis-West Memphis
Oct. 2013: 9.5%
Sept. 2013: 9.4%
Oct. 2012: 8.6%

Pine Bluff
Oct. 2013: 9.6%
Sept. 2013: 9.4%
Oct. 2012: 8.5%

Texarkana
Oct. 2013: 7%
Sept. 2013: 7.3%
Oct. 2012: 6.2%

FORT SMITH METRO AREA HISTORY
Past annual average unemployment rates
2012: 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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Comments

Boeing is looking for a factory

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They could use Ben Geren perhaps

Maybe this could solve our other dilemma at the very same time. How long though before our local armchair strategists turn this idea unto a touch and go somewhere else? What's 2-3 thousand machinists at $30-40 an hour or programmers checking code at who knows a $150k a year when ones aesthetic value is on the line?