District Overview: Revisions in Jobs Data: A New Picture of Metro-Area Employment in the Eighth District

Michael R. Pakko , Howard J. Wall

On March 11, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its latest annual benchmark revisions to the payroll employment data for metro areas in the United States. These revisions, which are often substantial, reflect updated information from a comprehensive count of employment, also done by the BLS. (See the sidebar for a discussion of the revision process.) For several of the metro areas in the Eighth Federal Reserve District, the newly released data suggest job growth that was less robust than had been reported initially.

Among the four major metro areas in the District, only Louisville experienced an upward revision in the estimated levels of total nonfarm payroll employment for the end of last year. Employment in Louisville in December 2007 is now estimated at 633,300 jobs, up from the previous estimate of 629,600 (an increase of 3,700 jobs). For Little Rock, the new data represent a downward revision of approximately 2,100 jobs. The Memphis revision shows 3,700 fewer jobs. For St. Louis, the level of employment was revised downward by a whopping 19,900.

The revisions also change the picture of the recent performance of local economies. The table presents the pre- and post-revision estimates of employment growth in 2007 for all 18 metro areas that lie predominantly within the Eighth District. The benchmarking involves data revisions going back 21 months; so, year-over-year changes represent revised data for December 2007 and for December 2006.

Job growth in 2007 for Louisville is now estimated to have been 6,900 (1.1 percent), nearly four times what was indicated by the initial estimates released in January. For Memphis, the estimated job gains are now 5,400 (0.8 percent), a reduction of nearly one-half from the initial estimate. For Little Rock, job growth was revised down from 7,200 (2.1 percent) to 5,200 (1.5 percent). Despite the downward revisions, current data suggest that in all three of these metro areas employment grew at least as fast as it did for the United States as a whole (0.8 percent).

In contrast, new estimates for the St. Louis metro area indicate that job growth was substantially weaker than for the country as a whole. As of January 2008, St. Louis job growth for last year was estimated to have been 24,500 (1.8 percent), but the new estimate shows job growth of only 2,000 (0.1 percent). The largest revisions were for leisure and hospitality (–6,800) and for trade, transportation and utilities (–4,600), although downward revisions were the norm across sectors.

Data from some of the District’s smaller metro areas were also subject to substantial revision. Job growth in Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark., was originally estimated to have been 4,900 jobs in 2007. The revised data show only 900 more jobs. Smaller downward revisions were also recorded for Fort Smith, Evansville and Jackson. Data were revised upward for the metro areas of Bowling Green, Columbia, Jefferson City and Springfield.

Revised data for five of the smaller metro areas in the District are not available. In fact, beginning with the March 11 data release, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has discontinued its employment series for these metro areas, along with 60 other small metropolitan areas across the country.

Although downward adjustments predominated in this year’s benchmark revisions of Eighth District job growth, none of the metro areas experienced declines in employment. For the 13 metro areas that were subject to revision, total employment growth in 2007 was lowered from the initial estimate of 61,500 down to 34,000 new jobs.


December 2006 to December 2007

LARGE METRO AREAS Original Estimate as of January 2008 Revised Estimate as of March 2008
Thousands Percent Change Thousands Percent Change
Little Rock-N. Little Rock, Ark. 7.2 2.1 5.2 1.5
Louisville, Ky.-Ind. 1.8 0.3 6.9 1.1
Memphis, Tenn.-Ark.-Miss. 10.1 1.6 5.4 0.8
St. Louis, Mo.-Ill. 24.5 1.8 2.0 0.1
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark. 4.9 2.4 0.9 0.4
Fort Smith, Ark.-Okla. 2.0 1.6 1.7 1.4
Hot Springs, Ark.* 0.6 1.6 NA
Pine Bluff, Ark.* 0.0 0.0 NA
Texarkana, Texas-Ark. 1.2 2.1 0.7 1.2
Bowling Green, Ky. 0.9 1.4 1.8 2.9
Elizabethtown, Ky.* 0.3 0.6 NA
Evansville, Ind.-Ky. 2.1 1.2 1.4 0.8
Owensboro, Ky.* 0.6 1.2 NA
Jackson, Tenn. 0.9 1.4 0.3 0.5
Jonesboro, Ark.* 0.5 1.0 NA
Columbia, Mo. 0.4 0.4 1.0 1.1
Jefferson City, Mo. 0.5 0.6 1.5 1.9
Springfield, Mo. 5.0 2.5 5.2 2.6


Joshua Byrge provided research assistance.


  1. The recent history of benchmark revisions is provided by Michael R. Pakko and Howard J. Wall in “Post-Casting Employment in the Eighth Federal Reserve District: Revised Data for Metro Areas,” CRE8 Occasional Report No. 2007-01, March 2007. See http://research.stlouisfed.org/regecon/op/CRE8OP-2007-001.pdf. [back to text]


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