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Little Rock Burgundy Book: 2013 Ends on a Soft Note; Business Contacts Appear Cautiously Optimistic about 2014


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A sizable minority of business contacts in the Little Rock zone expect some improvement in economic conditions in 2014. The remainder expect conditions in 2014 to be about unchanged from 2013.

The Burgundy Books offer comprehensive data and information on the economic conditions of each of the St. Louis Fed’s four zones: St. Louis, Little Rock, Louisville and Memphis.  The publication, which is released quarterly, includes the following sections: labor markets, manufacturing, real estate and construction, the household sector, banking and finance, and agriculture and natural resources.  Audio summaries of economic conditions in the zones are also available. 

View the entire Little Rock report at:

TheLittle 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).

Employment growth in the fourth quarter was stronger than the nation in Fayetteville and Fort Smith, but weaker in Little Rock and Texarkana. Manufacturing employment in Arkansas declined for the third consecutive year in 2013. Manufacturing conditions weakened, in part, because of a significant drop in manufactured exports.

The zone’s unemployment rate in the fourth quarter averaged 7.2 percent, a slight uptick from the previous two quarters. The Fayetteville, Ark., MSA unemployment rate (5.5 percent) remained appreciably below the US average (7 percent) in the fourth quarter, while the Little Rock MSA unemployment rate (6.7 percent) was modestly below the national rate.

Residential housing market conditions softened in the fourth quarter compared with the previous quarter. In particular, house prices and single-family building permits fell in most areas relative to a year earlier.

In a continuation of recent trends, households in the Little Rock zone reduced their outstanding mortgage debt and credit card balances but continued to increase auto loan debt.

Arkansas banks remained the most profitable among all District banks in the fourth quarter, as return on average assets measured 1.2 percent, well above the District average of 1.0 percent.

Lower commodity prices are raising concerns among producers and their lenders, while offering some relief to livestock producers.

To view all of the Burgundy Books, see

In addition, MP3 audio clips of highlights from the Burgundy Books can be heard at  They are available in both English and Spanish. 

The next Burgundy Books will be released on June 24, 2014.