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Fort Smith area jobless rate jumps to 7.6% in December

Not only did the Fort Smith metro jobless rate jump to 7.6% in December but the November rate of 6.9% was revised to 7%, meaning that the region’s jobless rate has been at or above 7% for 57 consecutive months. However, the December report showed an increase in workforce size and the number of employed.

Metro employment of 122,466 was down slightly from the 123,011 in November 2013, but was up from the 121,200 in December 2012. The December jobless rate of 7.6% was up from a revised 7% in November and down from 7.7% in December 2012, according to figures released Wednesday (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 4.9% in Northwest Arkansas and the highest rate was 9% in the Pine Bluff area.

FORT SMITH METRO NUMBERS
The size of the Fort Smith regional workforce during December was 132,560, up from 132,200 during November, and up compared to the 131,316 during December 2012. The labor force reached a revised high of 140,253 in November 2007.

Unemployed persons in the region totaled an estimated 10,094 during December, down from the 9,189 during November, and below the 10,116 during December 2012.

The Fort Smith area manufacturing sector employed an estimated 18,400 in December, up from 18,300 in November, and below the 18,900 during December 2012. Sector employment is down more than 35% from a decade ago when December 2003 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 28,600. 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 26,300 in December, up from the 25,900 in November, and above the 25,100 during December 2012. The December employment marked a new employment high in the sector.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 9,000 during December, down from 9,100 in November and above the 8,700 in December 2012. The sector reached an employment high of 9,800 in August 2008.

In Education & Health Services, employment was 18,100 during December, down from 18,000 in November and above the 17,300 during December 2012. December employment tied a record for sector employment – first set in October – 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 December, down from 19,800 in November and up compared to 19,600 in 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%

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

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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%

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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