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Northwest Arkansas jobless rate jumps to 5.9% in January

Sizeable shifts in the size of the workforce and the number of employed — potentially related to winter weather impacts on reporting – pushed the January Northwest Arkansas jobless rate to 5.9%, up from 4.9% in December and unchanged compared to January 2013. However, January marked 18 consecutive months the metro rate has been at or below 6%.

Metro employment of 216,656 was down from the 227,109 in December, and was down 1.29% compared to January 2013, according to figures released Friday (March 21) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Only one of the eight metro areas (Memphis-West Memphis) in or connected to Arkansas had a jobless rate decline in January compared to December. Two areas had jobless rate increases compared to January 2013, three had declines and three areas were unchanged. For perspective, 98.6% of the 372 U.S. metro areas had year-over-year-over-year jobless rate declines in January, while 37.5% of Arkansas’ eight metro areas posted year-over-year declines.

During January, the lowest metro jobless rate in the state was in Northwest Arkansas and the highest rate was 10.8% in the Pine Bluff area.

The federal BLS issued this statement with its January labor report: “Effective with this release, nonfarm payroll estimates for states and metropolitan areas have been revised as a result of annual benchmark processing to reflect 2013 employment counts primarily from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), as well as updated seasonal adjustment factors. Not seasonally adjusted data back to April 2012 were revised. Seasonally adjusted data from January 1990 were subject to revision.”

NWA METRO NUMBERS
The size of the Northwest Arkansas regional workforce during January was estimated at 230,145, down from the 238,877 during December, and below the 233,300 during January 2013. June 2014 was the first month the region’s workforce topped 240,000. The average annual monthly labor size was 234,792 during 2012, 229,950 during 2011 and 226,593 during 2010.

Following are other key figures from the BLS metro report.
• Unemployed persons in the region totaled 13,489 during January, a big jump from the 11,768 during December but below the 13,807 during January 2013.

• The Northwest Arkansas manufacturing sector employed an estimated 26,300 in January, down from 26,400 in December, and down from the 26,400 during January 2013. Sector employment is down almost 22% from more than a decade ago when January 2004 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 33,700.

• Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — the region’s largest job sector —  totaled 48,300 in January, down from a revised 49,600 during December, and up from the 49,200 during January 2013. The sector reached record employment of 50,500 in December 2006.

• Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 20,700 during January, down from 21,100 in December and up from 19,700 during January 2013. Employment in the sector set a record of 22,000 in June 2013.

• In Education & Health Services, employment was 24,500 during January, down from 24,800 during December and up from 23,700 during January 2013.

• In the Government sector, employment was 30,900 during January, down from 32,300 in December and up compared to 30,000 during January 2013.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in January than a year earlier in 367 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in three areas, and unchanged in two areas, noted the broad BLS report.

The U.S. unemployment rate in January was 6.6%, down from 7.9% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 7.3% in January, down from 7.4% in December and down from 7.5% in January 2013.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate during January was 5.2%, down from 5.4% in December, and down compared to 5.4% in January 2013. The Missouri jobless rate during January was 6%, unchanged from December and better than the 6.7% in January 2013.

ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
January 2014: 5.9%
December 2013: 4.9%
January 2013: 5.9%

Fort Smith
January 2014: 7.8%
December 2013: 7.6%
January 2013: 8.7%

Hot Springs
January 2014: 8.1%
December 2013: 7.5%
January 2013: 8.4%

Jonesboro
January 2014: 7.8%
December 2013: 6.6%
January 2013: 7.8%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
January 2014: 7.1%
December 2013: 6.2%
January 2013: 7.1%

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Memphis-West Memphis
January 2014: 8.4%
December 2013: 8.6%
January 2013: 9.7%

Pine Bluff
January 2014: 10.8%
December 2013: 9.8%
January 2013: 10.5%

Texarkana
January 2014: 7.3%
December 2013: 6.8%
January 2013: 7.2%

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS METRO AREA HISTORY
Past annual average unemployment rates
2012: 5.6%
2011: 6.2%
2010: 6.4%
2009: 6.2%
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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