3 Cities to Watch
Source: U. S. Department of Labor
Neil Pierson is editor of Scotsman Guide Commercial Edition.
Reach him at (800) 297-6061 or email@example.com.
As of this past July, Arkansas had an unemployment rate of 3. 4 percent,
which was 90 basis points lower than the national average, the U.S.
Department of Labor reported. Since the end of 2016, the state has
boosted employment totals by 43,000 while decreasing the number of
unemployed workers by 6,000.
Employment figures have jumped past pre-recession levels by 4.1 percent since the end of 2007, although that’s behind the national average
of 5. 9 percent. Arkansas has made the greatest job strides in education
and health services (up 7. 5 percent year over year this past July); leisure
and hospitality services (up 7.1 percent) and professional and business
services (up 6. 5 percent).
As of this past June, labor statistics showed that almost all of Arkansas’
metro areas — including Little Rock, Fayetteville, Fort Smith and Pine
Bluff — had lower year-over-year unemployment rates.
Focus: Food manufacturing
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission notes that the state has
competitive advantages in transporting food because of its large number
of waterways, railroads, highways and airports. It is the top producer of
rice in the U.S. and the No. 3 producer of catfish and poultry.
Arkansas employs about 50,000 people in the food-manufacturing
industry, the commission said, attracting business though income-and sales-tax credits, and infrastructure grants. A wide variety of food
products are exported from Arkansas, including meat, wine, honey,
condiments, bottled water, ice cream and seasonings. The industry’s top
employers in the state include ConAgra Foods, Gerber, Kraft, Riceland
and Tyson Foods. Within the past two years, major projects included
Frito-Lay’s $45 million expansion of its Jonesboro facility, and Peco Foods’
new manufacturing plant, which involved a $24 million investment and
created 1,000 jobs.
The state’s third-largest city, with more than 83,000 residents as of July
2016, Fayetteville is located in the northwest corner of the state near
Ozark National Forest. It is the home of the University of Arkansas,
which has an enrollment of 26,700 and is the seventh-fastest growing
public-research university in the nation. The city is a cultural hotbed
with about 180 festivals per year, centered around things like music, art, food and motorcycles. Washington Regional Medical Center,
Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks, Pinnacle Foods and
Walmart Optical each employ more than 500 people in the area.
Set in the rolling hills of Crowley’s Ridge in the northeast portion of
the state, Jonesboro is the fifth-largest city in Arkansas with nearly
75,000 residents. The center of a 12-county metro area with about
500,000 residents, it prides itself on advanced manufacturing, health
care, logistics and agribusiness as key employment sectors, and it’s
the home to Arkansas State University.
As Fayetteville’s next-door neighbor to the north, Springdale is home
to 78,000 residents, making it the fourth-largest city in Arkansas.
The metro area received recent accolades from U.S. News & World
Report as the nation’s best affordable place to live, as well as the No. 5
ranking on its 2017 Best Places to Live list. On average, residents spend
less than one-quarter of their income on housing costs. The city’s major
employers include Tyson Foods, George’s, Cargill and Northwest Health.
Sources: Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism, Arkansas Economic Development
Commission, Colliers International, CoStar, Downtown Little Rock Partnership,
Experience Fayetteville, Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, History.com, Jonesboro
Regional Chamber of Commerce, Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, Springdale
Chamber of Commerce, U. S. Census Bureau, U. S. Department of Commerce, U. S.