Unemployment Falls in Arkansas Metros in 2015

Unemployment in Arkansas’ metropolitan areas has fallen significantly in the last year, notes Michael Pakko, an economist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

From December 2014 to December 2015, the change ranged from a decline of four-tenths of a percentage point in Fort Smith to 1 full point in Hot Springs and Jonesboro.

Unemployment rates were at or below 5 percent in five of the eight metro areas at the end of 2015, Pakko said on his blog, ArkansasEconomist.com.

But, he said, nonfarm payroll employment in Arkansas has been a mixed bag, particularly when compared with 2007, before the start of the recession.

“Compared to a year ago, payroll employment was up in six metro areas, having fallen in Fort Smith and Pine Bluff,” Pakko said. “Growth over the past 12 months has been particularly strong in Fayetteville and Jonesboro.”

The growth in those two cities “continues a trend that has characterized the entire economic expansion, with the two northern corners of the state experiencing far more rapid growth than the rest of the region,” he said. “At the other extreme, employment in Pine Bluff has continued to decline. At the end of 2015, Pine Bluff payrolls were down 17.5 percent from prerecession levels.”