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Northwest Arkansas metro jobless rate dips to 5.4% in March

Gains in the number of employed and a 3.7% decline in the number of unemployed helped push the Northwest Arkansas metro jobless rate down to 5.4% in March compared to 5.6% in February and 5.7% in March 2013.

Metro employment of 222,341 was up from the 220,952 in February, and a healthy gain over the 218,826 in March 2013, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

March marked the eighth consecutive month that the NWA metro jobless rate has been below 6%. The metro area is the only one in Arkansas to post a rate below 6%.

The size of the Northwest Arkansas regional workforce during March was estimated at 234,966, up from the 233,960 during February, and above the 231,940 during March 2013. June 2013 was the first month the region’s workforce topped 240,000. The average annual monthly labor size was 234,412 in 2013, 234,792 during 2012, 229,950 during 2011 and 226,593 during 2010.

All of the eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas had a jobless rate decline in March compared to February, and had jobless rate declines compared to March 2013. During March, the lowest metro jobless rate in the state was 5.4% in Northwest Arkansas and the highest rate was 9.4% in the Pine Bluff area.

NWA METRO NUMBERS
Following are other key figures from the BLS metro report.
Unemployed persons in the region totaled 12,625 during March, down from the 13,008 during February and below the 13,114 during March 2013.

The Northwest Arkansas manufacturing sector employed an estimated 26,300 in March, up from 26,200 in February, and down from the 26,600 during March 2013. Sector employment is down 21.7% from more than a decade ago when March 2004 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 33,600.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — the region’s largest job sector —  totaled 48,200 in March, up from 47,700 during February, and up from the 47,600 during March 2013. The sector reached record employment of 50,500 in December 2006.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 21,500 during March, up from 20,900 in February and up from 20,500 during March 2013. Employment in the sector set a record of 22,000 in June 2013.

In Education & Health Services, employment was 24,700 during March, unchanged compared to February and up from 24,000 during March 2013.

In the Government sector, employment was 32,700 during March, up from 32,500 in February and up compared to 31,800 during March 2013.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in February than a year earlier in 333 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 30 areas, and unchanged in nine areas, noted the broad BLS report.

The U.S. unemployment rate in March was 6.7%, down from 7.5% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 6.9% in March, down from 7.1% in February and down from 7.4% in March 2013.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate during March was 4.9%, down from 5% in February, and down compared to 5.2% in March 2013. The Missouri jobless rate during March was 6.7%, up from 6.4% in February and up from the 6.6% in March 2013.

ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
March 2014: 5.4%
February 2014: 5.6%
March 2013: 5.7%

Fort Smith
March 2014: 6.9%
February 2014: 7.6%
March 2013: 8.1%

Hot Springs
March 2014: 7.1%
February 2014: 7.7%
March 2013: 7.8%

Jonesboro
March 2014: 6.6%
February 2014: 7.1%
March 2013: 7.1%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
March 2014: 6.3%
February 2014: 6.7%
March 2013: 6.8%

Memphis-West Memphis
March 2014: 8.2%
February 2014: 8.4%
March 2013: 9.4%

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Pine Bluff
March 2014: 9.4%
February 2014: 10.1%
March 2013: 9.8%

Texarkana
March 2014: 6.5%
February 2014: 7.3%
March 2013: 7%

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS METRO AREA HISTORY
Past annual average unemployment rates
2013: 5.7%
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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