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Fort Smith area jobless rate rise to 6.3%, employed numbers fall

Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by The City Wire. Supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The Fort Smith metro jobless rate for May rose back above 6%, with the regional workforce declining 3.51% and the number of employed down 1.97% compared to May 2013.

May’s jobless rate in the metro area was 6.3%, above the 5.9% in April and well below the 7.8% in May 2013. May’s data is subject to revision in future reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The size of the Fort Smith regional workforce during May was 127,054, up from 126,506 during April, and well below the 131,677 during May 2013. The labor force reached a revised high of 140,253 in June 2007, meaning the May workforce size is down 9.4% from the peak number.

The number of employed in the Fort Smith region totaled 119,003 in May, up from 118,984 compared to April but an estimated 2,398 jobs below the 121,401 employed in May 2013.

All eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas had jobless rate increases in May compared to April, but had jobless rate declines compared to May 2013. During May, the lowest metro jobless rate in the state was 4.9% in Northwest Arkansas and the highest rate was 8.4% in the Pine Bluff area.

FORT SMITH METRO NUMBERS
Unemployed persons in the region totaled an estimated 8,051 during May, up from the 7,522 during April, but well below the 10,726 during May 2013.

The Fort Smith area manufacturing sector employed an estimated 18,200 in May, unchanged compared to April, and below the 18,400 in May 2013. Sector employment is down almost 36% from a decade ago when May 2004 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 28,400. Also, the annual average monthly employment in manufacturing has fallen from 28,900 in 2005, 19,200 in 2012, and to 18,300 in 2013.

Jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — the region’s largest job sector —  totaled 24,300 in May, unchanged compared to April, and above the 23,700 during May 2013. Employment in the sector reached a high of 25,700 in December 2007.

Employment in the region’s tourism industry was 9,700 during May, up from 9,400 in April and above the 9,500 in May 2013. The sector reached an employment high of 9,800 in August 2008.

In Education & Health Services, employment was 16,500 during May, unchanged from April and below the 17,100 during May 2013. Annual average monthly employment in the sector has steadily grown since 2005 when it reached 14,000. In 2012 the average was 17,000, but fell slightly to 16,800 in 2013. Employment in the sector reached a record 17,300 in October 2012.

In the Government sector, employment was 19,700 during May, up compared to 19,600 in April and above the 19,600 in May 2013.

NATIONAL NUMBERS
Unemployment rates were lower in May than a year earlier in 357 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 11 areas, and unchanged in four areas, noted the broad BLS report.

The U.S. unemployment rate in May was 6.3%, down from 7.5% from a year earlier. Arkansas’ jobless rate was 6.4% in May, down from 6.6% in April and down from 7.5% in May 2013.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate during May was 4.6%, unchanged compared to April, and down compared to 5.4% in May 2013. The Missouri jobless rate during May was 6.6%, unchanged compared to April and below the 6.7% in May 2013.

ARKANSAS METRO AREAS
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers
May 2014: 4.9%
April 2014: 4.5%
May 2013: 5.8%

Fort Smith
May 2014: 6.3%
April 2014: 5.9%
May 2013: 7.8%

Hot Springs
May 2014: 6.4%
April 2014: 6.1%
May 2013: 7.6%

Jonesboro
May 2014: 5.8%
April 2014: 5.6%
May 2013: 7.1%

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway
May 2014: 5.8%
April 2014: 5.5%
May 2013: 6.7%

Memphis-West Memphis
May 2014: 7.5%
April 2014: 7%
May 2013: 9.2%

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Pine Bluff
May 2014: 8.4%
April 2014: 8.3%
May 2013: 9.5%

Texarkana
May 2014: 6%
April 2014: 5.8%
May 2013: 7%

FORT SMITH METRO AREA HISTORY
Past annual average unemployment rates
2013: 8%
2012: 7.7%
2011: 8.3%
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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