Majority of Arkansas’ September job gains in three metro areas

Arkansas’ three largest metro regions – areas with most of the workforce in the state – accounted for 78.3% of the state’s 45,532 year-over-year job gains in September, with the Northwest Arkansas metro contributing almost half (45%) of the year-over-year gains.

All eight metro areas in or connected to Arkansas posted job gains in the September report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The September report is preliminary and subject to revision.

Central Arkansas had 337,234 employed in September, up 10,484 jobs, from the 326,750 in September 2020. The region’s jobless rate was 3.3% in September, below the 6.5% in September 2020.

Northwest Arkansas, had an estimated 289,607 jobs in September, up 20,444 jobs from the 269,163 in September 2020. The region’s jobless rate was 2.2% in September, below the 4.4% in September 2020.

The Fort Smith metro, Arkansas’ third largest metro, had an estimated 116,036 jobs in September, up 4,833 jobs from 111,203 in September 2020. The region’s jobless rate was 2.7% in September, below the 5.6% in September 2020. At 2.9%, April 2019 was the last time the regional jobless rate was below 3%.

Michael Pakko, chief economist and state economic forecaster at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said the Northwest Arkansas metro is the only state region in which employment is above pre-pandemic levels.

“In spite of recent gains, employment totals generally remain lower than the pre-pandemic month of February 2020. The exception is Northwest Arkansas, where employment is up 1.9%. Fort Smith is very close to achieving pre-pandemic levels of employment, while in Hot Springs, Little Rock and Texarkana, employment remains more than 3% below that benchmark month,” Pakko noted at his Arkansas Economist website.

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