Northwest Arkansas jobless rate down 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.

The Northwest Arkansas jobless rate in October was 5.1%, down compared to September, but an estimated increase in the number of unemployed pushed the rate higher than the 5% in October 2012.

Metro employment of 227,760 was up 1.19% compared to October 2012, but was down compared to the 228,357 employed in September, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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.

The October report marked the 15th 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 October was estimated at 240,112, down from the 240,837 during September, and ahead of the 236,845 during October 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, 229,950 during 2011, 226,593 during 2010 and 224,336 during 2009.

Following are other key figures from the BLS metro report.
• Unemployed persons in the region totaled 12,352 during October, below the 12,480 during September and above the 11,744 during October 2012.

• The Northwest Arkansas manufacturing sector employed an estimated 26,800 in October, unchanged compared to September, and above the 26,700 during October 2012. Sector employment is down more than 21% from more than a decade ago when October 2003 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 34,200.

• Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — the region’s largest job sector —  totaled 51,300 in October, up from 50,900 during September, and up from the 48,600 during October 2012. The October employment level, which is subject to future revision, is a new record in Northwest Arkansas for the sector.

• Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 22,000 during October, down from the 22,300 in September and up from 20,900 during October 2012. The September employment is a new record for the sector.

• In Education & Health Services, employment was 26,000 during October, up from 25,800 during September and up from 24,700 during October 2012.

• In the Government sector, employment was 31,300 during October, up from 30,500 in September and up compared to 31,000 during 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%

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS METRO AREA HISTORY
Past annual average unemployment rates
2012: 5.6%
2011: 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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