Arkansas MSAs See Declines in Unemployment Rates

Unemployment rates were down in all five MSAs in Arkansas in the second quarter of 2014, according to numbers from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis' latest Burgundy Book report.

Fayetteville had the lowest unemployment rate at 5.0 percent. That was down from 5.3 percent in the first quarter. Little Rock (6.0) and Jonesboro (6.1) were the only other MSAs with a jobless rate less than the national average, 6.2 percent.

Fort Smith came in at 6.5 percent and Texarkana at 6.3 percent. Both fell from 7.0 percent in the first quarter.

As a whole, the Little Rock Zone's, which includes all MSAs except Jonesboro, unemployment rate was 6.2 percent. The second quarter rate is the zone's lowest since the Great Recession. The low numbers are the result of improved labor market conditions.

In the Little Rock MSA, the nonfarm employment grew significant, specifically in the leisure and hospitality sector, in addition to the natural resources and construction sectors. 

"Predicted demand for services is driving hiring of additional technical staff and additional labor acquired in 2013 or [first half of 2014] has been fully utilized," one Little Rock area IT consultant told the Burgundy Book.

A manufacturing contact in the Little Rock area said "skilled blue collar workers will be the limiting factor in expanding output in many industrial facilities."

Little Rock Zone business contacts said employment and hours worked are to remain about the same in the third quarter and increase slightly near the end of the year.

Jonesboro Leads Sectors Growth

In the sectors reported in the Burgundy Book, Jonesboro was the only MSA in Arkansas to outpace national growth on a consistent basis.

From a year ago, Jonesboro saw the biggest jump in the private service-providing sector, 4.5 percent, which was more than double the increase across the country, 2.1 percent. It doubled the national growth in nonfarm employment, 1.8 percent, by posting a 3.6 percent increase. 

Jonesboro also saw a 2.3 percent increase in the government sector, compared to a 0.1 percent increase across the U.S.

The national growth in the goods-producing sector, 1.9 percent, was higher than Jonesboro's 1.6 percent growth.

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