Revised Data: Northwest Arkansas Job Growth Better Than First Reported


Revised Data: Northwest Arkansas Job Growth Better Than First Reported
Mike Harvey

When Mike Harvey saw data that showed northwest Arkansas’ job growth lagged behind the national rate in 2014, he could only scratch his head.

His experience was completely different from what the numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics were telling him in January. 

Turns out, Harvey was right: new revised data from March show that northwest Arkansas added 7,000 more jobs — 10,000 compared to 3,000 — than previously reported, a 4.56 percent increase from the year before.

The Northwest Arkansas Council held a meeting Friday with local mayors and chamber of commerce presidents to discuss the new revised data.

Harvey, the COO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said northwest Arkansas remains one of the top 30 job growers in the country. Other cities or regions on that list, Harvey said, benefit from being close to a major city, are retirement cities or have boomed because of their locations to energy fields.

Northwest Arkansas, though, has seen growth from strong sectors such as retail, food, logistics and university.

"We’re not a one-trick pony; people may call us a four-trick pony," Harvey said.

A graph showing the revised figures drew a round of applause from the mayors and chamber presidents in attendance.

"The story has fundamentally changed in a way that is very good news," said Kathy Deck, the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas.

In January, Deck had announced the previous figures at the 21st annual Business Forecast Luncheon in Rogers, when the employment lagged the national rate. Deck and Northwest Arkansas Council executives found that at odds with their experiences in the community.

Deck said the previous statistics showed the trade-transportation-utilities sector, which makes up 22 percent of the region, had lost 1,600 jobs in 2014. The new data showed it instead added 3,000.

Deck said major revisions in data aren’t uncommon because researchers can only use the best available information. At the January luncheon, Deck had said she believed the employment numbers would improve with new data.

"Job growth is strong where we need it to be strong," Deck said. "We have been growing at rates you can only dream about for two years in this region."