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NWA jobless rate holds at 4.9% in December, jobless number drops

Northwest Arkansas’ job market continues to on a positive track with an almost 2% gain in the number of employed and a dip in the number of unemployed seeing the December jobless rate hold at 4.9%, unchanged from a revised November rate and below the 5.1% in December 2012.

Metro employment of 227,109 was down from the 229,699 in November 2013, but was up 1.98% compared to December 2012, according to figures released Thursday (Feb. 6) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Only one metro area (Memphis-West Memphis) in or connected to Arkansas had a jobless rate decline in December compared to November. Three areas had jobless rate increases compared to December 2012, three had declines and two areas were unchanged. For perspective, 91.1% of the 372 U.S. metro areas had year-over-year jobless rate declines in December compared to 37.5% of Arkansas’ eight metro areas posting year-over-year declines.

During December, the lowest metro jobless rate in the state was in Northwest Arkansas and the highest rate was 9% in the Pine Bluff area.

The December report marked the 17th 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 December was estimated at 238,877, down from the 241,422 during November, and ahead of the 234,657 during December 2012. June 2013 was the first month the region’s workforce 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 11,768 during December, up slightly from the 11,723 during November and less than the 11,961 during December 2012.

• The Northwest Arkansas manufacturing sector employed an estimated 27,000 in December, down from a revised 27,100 in November, and above the 26,800 during December 2012. Sector employment is down more than 21% from more than a decade ago when December 2003 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 52,200 in December, up from a revised 52,100 during November, and up from the 49,700 during December 2012. The December employment level is a new record in Northwest Arkansas for the sector, although it is subject to revision in future reports. The November report had the job level at 52,200, but what was revised down to 52,100.

• Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 21,400 during December, down from 21,900 in November and up from 20,400 during December 2012. September employment of 22,300 was a new record for the sector.

• In Education & Health Services, employment was 26,000 during December, down from 26,200 during November and up from 24,600 during December 2012.

• In the Government sector, employment was 30,900 during December, down from 31,500 in November and up compared to 30,400 during December 2012.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in December than a year earlier in 339 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 25 areas, and unchanged in 8 areas, noted the broad BLS report.

The U.S. unemployment rate in December was 6.7%, down from 7.9% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 7.4% in December, down from 7.5% in November and up from 7.1% in December 2012.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate during December was 5.4%, unchanged compared to November, and up compared to 5.1% in December 2012. The Missouri jobless rate during December was 5.9%, compared to 6.1% in November and better than the 6.6% in December 2012.

ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
December 2013: 4.9%
November 2013: 4.9%
December 2012: 5.1%

Fort Smith
December 2013: 7.6%
November 2013: 7%
December 2012: 7.7%

Hot Springs
December 2013: 7.5%
November 2013: 7.5%
December 2012: 7.4%

Jonesboro
December 2013: 6.6%
November 2013: 6.3%
December 2012: 6.9%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
December 2013: 6.2%
November 2013: 6.2%
December 2012: 6.2%

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Memphis-West Memphis
December 2013: 8.8%
November 2013: 8.7%
December 2012: 8.7%

Pine Bluff
December 2013: 9.8%
November 2013: 9.5%
December 2012: 9%

Texarkana
December 2013: 6.8%
November 2013: 6.8%
December 2012: 6.2%

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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