LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The near-term outlook for the Little Rock zone improved modestly according to a May survey of business contacts. Roughly two-thirds expect economic conditions in 2014 to be better or somewhat better than they were in 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: https://research.stlouisfed.org/regecon/burgundybooks/14/06/BB0614LR.pdf
The Little Rock zone’s unemployment rate averaged 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2014, down modestly from the previous quarter (7.2 percent). Two of the four MSAs in the Little Rock zone (Fayetteville and Little Rock) had unemployment rates below the U.S. average (6.7 percent). The zone’s payroll employment growth was modestly positive in the first quarter.
In contrast to the nation, manufacturing employment in the Little Rock zone declined in the first quarter. However, activity in the transportation sector appears to be ramping up, as reflected in a sizable increase in job openings over the past several months.
Compared with a year earlier, home prices and single-family building permits declined in the first quarter—although Fayetteville and Texarkana were notable exceptions. Vacancy rates in Little Rock were unchanged to slightly lower in the first quarter compared with the previous quarter.
Households in the Little Rock zone continue to pare their mortgage debt and credit card balances. However, auto loan debt—a proxy for auto sales—increased at a healthy pace in the first quarter, and by a larger percentage than seen nationally.
Compared with the previous three months, Arkansas banks’ return on assets and net interest margins increased slightly in the first quarter; however, their nonperforming loan ratio was largely unchanged.
Arkansas farmers reduced their corn acreage in 2014, but boosted their rice acreage sharply.
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/20140624-burgundybooks.cfm.
The next Burgundy Books will be released on September 23, 2014.