Seven of the eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas posted jobless rate declines in July compared to June, as the jobs picture in the state continues to improve following significant job losses that followed Arkansas’ first COVID-19 case March.
Arkansas’ three largest in-state metro regions – central Arkansas, Fort Smith metro, and Northwest Arkansas – combined for 61,078 job losses in July compared with July 2019. The losses in the three metros account for 61.1% of all jobs losses in the state during July.
The July numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the fourth full month of COVID disruption on the state economy. The number of unemployed in the central Arkansas metro was 28,620 in July, up from the 13,706 in July 2019, but down from the 31,464 unemployed in June. The region’s jobless rate was 8.3% in July, well above the 3.7% in July 2019, but better than the 9% in June
Northwest Arkansas had 15,602 unemployed in July, up from the 8,530 in July 2019 but down from the 17,641 in June. The region’s jobless rate was 5.7%, up from 3% in July 2019 and down from 6.4% in June. The Fort Smith metro had 8,305 unemployed in July, up from the 4,774 in July 2019, and down from the 8,575 in June. The Fort Smith metro jobless rate was 7.2%, up from 4% in July 2019, and down from 7.4% in June.
Northwest Arkansas had the lowest metro jobless rate in July (5.7%), and the Memphis-West Memphis area had the highest at 13%. Arkansas’ July jobless rate was 7.1%, down from 8.1% in June, but above the 3.6% in July 2019.
University of Arkansas Little Rock economist Michael Pakko said the July report shows economic gains but the job numbers remain well below those from a year ago.
“Payroll employment increased from June to July in six of Arkansas’ metro areas, with Little Rock unchanged and Pine Bluff down 1.3%. All eight metro areas have shown employment increases since the April trough, with three-month increases ranging from 2.6% in Pine Bluff to 12.8% in Hot Springs. Nevertheless, employment in all eight metro areas remains well below cyclical peaks in February and below year-ago levels,” Pakko noted in his report
Unemployment rates were higher in July than a year earlier in all 389 metropolitan areas, according to the BLS report. Seven areas had jobless rates of less than 5% and four areas had rates of at least 20%. Nonfarm payroll employment decreased over the year in 272 metropolitan areas, increased in 1 area, and was essentially unchanged in 116 areas.
El Centro, Calif., had the highest unemployment rate in July, 26.8%, followed by Yuma, Ariz., at 24.8%, and Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J., at 24%. Logan, Utah-Idaho, and Idaho Falls, Idaho, had the lowest unemployment rates at 2.7% and 3.1%, respectively. The BLS report also showed that 268 areas had July jobless rates below the U.S. rate of 10.5%, 116 areas had rates above it, and 5 areas had rates equal to that of the nation.