ST. LOUIS—A November survey of business contacts in the Little Rock Zone of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis revealed substantially more optimism above the near-term outlook compared with three months earlier. In fact, several contacts reported that their business expansion plans had slowed due to difficulty in finding qualified workers.
The information was published Dec. 19, 2014 in the latest quarterly release of the Burgundy Books, a publication of the St. Louis Fed. The reports offer comprehensive economic information for each of the St. Louis Fed’s four zones: St. Louis, Little Rock, Ark., Louisville, Ky., and Memphis, Tenn.
The Little Rock Zone of the St. Louis Fed includes the majority of Arkansas, except the northeast part of the state. The population in the zone is approximately 2.5 million people, including the 710,000 who live in the Little Rock metropolitan statistical area (MSA).
Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1.2 percent in the Little Rock MSA in the third quarter of 2014. Total nonfarm employment growth was modestly stronger in the Fayetteville MSA, but modestly weaker in the Fort Smith MSA. Employment growth in the Texarkana MSA in the third quarter rose for the first time in three years.
The zone’s unemployment rate averaged 6 percent in the third quarter of 2014, similar to the nation’s rate (6.1 percent). The Fayetteville MSA’s unemployment rate fell below 5 percent in the third quarter for the first time in nearly six years.
Housing activity in the Little Rock Zone was generally weaker than in other parts of the nation in the third quarter. There were pockets of strength, however, as evidenced by outsized increases in home prices and single-family building permits in the Texarkana MSA.
After falling in the second quarter, Arkansas’s per capita credit card balances rose modestly in the third quarter. Still, the state’s debt-to-income ratio fell for the third consecutive quarter.
Arkansas banks remained more profitable than their Eighth District and U.S. peers in the third quarter. Asset quality continued to improve at Arkansas banks.
Similar to the other parts of the nation, most crop harvests in Arkansas were larger in 2014 over the previous year. Corn production was the exception because of a reduction in harvested acreage.
View the entire Little Rock Zone report at http://research.stlouisfed.org/regecon/burgundybooks/14/12/BB1214LR.pdf.
The next Burgundy Books will be released March 24, 2015.