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Fort Smith area jobless rate falls to 6.9% in November

The Fort Smith metro jobless rate fell to 6.9% in November and brought to an end 55 consecutive months in which the regional jobless rate was at or above 7%.

Metro employment of 122,993 was down slightly from the 123,153 in October 2013, but was up from the 122,688 in November 2012. The November jobless rate of 6.9% was down from 7.3% in October and down from 7.3% in November 2012, according to figures released Wednesday (Jan. 8) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

All eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas had jobless rate declines in November compared to October, and seven areas had jobless rate increases compared to November 2012. The Fort Smith regional jobless rate was better than the 7.3% in November 2012.

During November, the lowest metro jobless rate in the state was 4.8% in Northwest Arkansas and the highest rate was 9.5% in the Pine Bluff area.

FORT SMITH METRO NUMBERS 
The size of the Fort Smith regional workforce during November was 132,163, down from the 132,867 during October, and below the 132,392 during November 2012. The labor force reached a revised high of 140,253 in October 2007.

Unemployed persons in the region totaled an estimated 9,170 during November, down from the 9,714 during October, and below the 9,704 during November 2012.

The Fort Smith area manufacturing sector employed an estimated 18,400 in November, down from 18,500 in October, and below the 18,800 during November 2012. Employment in the sector is down more than 35% from a decade ago when November 2003 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 28,500. 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 25,800 in November, down from the 26,000 in October, and above the 25,000 during November 2012. A revised October employment of 26,000 marked a new employment high in the sector.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 9,100 during November, down from 9,300 in October and above the 8,900 in November 2012. The sector reached an employment high of 9,800 in August 2008.

In Education & Health Services, employment was 17,900 during November, down from 18,100 in October and above the 17,300 during November 2012. October employment was s 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 19,800 during November, up from 19,700 in October and unchanged compared to November 2012.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in November than a year earlier in 293 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 71 areas, and unchanged in 8 areas, noted the broad BLS report.

The U.S. unemployment rate in November was 7%, down from 7.8% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 7.5% in November, unchanged compared to October and up from 7.2% in November 2012.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate during November was 5.4%, down from 5.5% in October, and up compared to 5.1% in November 2012. The Missouri jobless rate during November was 6.1%, compared to 6.5% in October and better than the 6.6% in November 2012.

ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
November 2013: 4.8%
October 2013: 5.1%
November 2012: 4.7%

Fort Smith
November 2013: 6.9%
October 2013: 7.3%
November 2012: 7.3%

Hot Springs
November 2013: 7.5%
October 2013: 7.8%
November 2012: 6.8%

Jonesboro
November 2013: 6.3%
October 2013: 6.4%
November 2012: 6.2%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
November 2013: 6.1%
October 2013: 6.5%
November 2012: 5.8%

Memphis-West Memphis
November 2013: 8.8%
October 2013: 9.5%
November 2012: 8.1%

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Pine Bluff
November 2013: 9.5%
October 2013: 9.6%
November 2012: 8.4%

Texarkana
November 2013: 6.8%
October 2013: 7.1%
November 2012: 6%

FORT SMITH METRO AREA HISTORY
Past annual average unemployment rates
2012: 7.7%
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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