LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Labor market conditions in the Little Rock zone improved modestly during the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with a year earlier, according to the most recent edition of the Little Rock Burgundy Book released today by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
The release of the first quarter 2013 edition features an expanded and redesigned version of the publication, which is published quarterly for each of the St. Louis Fed’s four zones: St. Louis, Little Rock, Louisville and Memphis. The new version of the publication offers more comprehensive data and information on the economic conditions of each zone with the following new or expanded sections: labor markets, manufacturing, real estate and construction, the household sector, banking and finance, agriculture and natural resources and the public sector.
View the entire Little Rock report at:
The Little Rock zone of the St. Louis Fed’s Eighth District covers the majority of the state of Arkansas, excluding northeast Arkansas. It represents a total population of close to 2.5 million people, including the 710,000 people who live in the Little Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).
According to the Little Rock report, job growth on balance was stronger in the zone’s smaller MSAs than in the Little Rock MSA. The Little Rock zone’s unemployment rate averaged 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, which was appreciably lower than the nation’s 7.8 percent rate.
Compared with a year earlier, employment growth during the fourth quarter of 2012 was especially robust in trade, transportation and utilities. Notable declines were seen in the natural resources, mining and construction and information industries.
Arkansas earnings growth in the manufacturing industry (4.8 percent) modestly trailed the nation’s growth (5.4 percent) during the fourth quarter. The zone’s farm sector fared well in 2012 relative to most other areas of the nation.
Similar to the nation, the Little Rock zone continues to benefit from gains in real estate and construction activity. Although gains in house prices in the fourth quarter modestly trailed the nation, gains in building permits outpaced the nation on average. Adding to the momentum, office vacancy rates fell sharply in the fourth quarter.
Household balance sheets in the MSA continued to improve in the fourth quarter, as households generally reduced debt levels in the face of increasing gains in per capita personal income. By contrast, per capita auto debt balances across the zone have outpaced those nationally.
Arkansas banks generally outperformed their Eighth District and U.S. peers during the fourth quarter of 2012. Still, nonperforming loans of Arkansas banks are relatively high compared with other Eighth District banks and the nation, and some contacts expressed concern about the recent easing in lending standards.
To view all of the Burgundy Books, see research.stlouisfed.org/regecon/district.html.
In addition, MP3 audio clips of highlights from the Burgundy Books can be heard at stlouisfed.org/newsroom/multimedia/audio/20130314-burgundybooks.cfm. They are available in both English and Spanish.
The remaining Burgundy Books for 2013 will be released on June 13, September 12 and December 12.