State of Region Report Shows Better Wages, Higher GDP

The performance of the Northwest Arkansas region from 2010 to 2014 in gross domestic product, employment, per capita personal income and wages showed strong increases from the previous year, Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas said today in releasing the 2015 State of the Northwest Region Report.

Improvements in metrics such as establishment growth, educational attainment and poverty were more limited for Northwest Arkansas.

The Northwest Arkansas Council announced in January that the organization’s five-year strategic plan 2011-2015 was completed a year ahead of schedule, and the nonprofit organization kicked off work on a new three-year strategic plan and peer regions for 2015-2017. The performance of Northwest Arkansas is now being benchmarked with Austin, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Madison, Wisconsin; and the Raleigh-Durham regions in North Carolina.

“We benchmarked Northwest Arkansas against an entirely different group of regions in previous State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Reports, and Northwest Arkansas was clearly one of the strongest performers,” said Kathy Deck. “Now, we’re comparing ourselves to some of the nation’s best and somewhat larger metro areas. It’s an excellent group and you always want to benchmark against the very best if possible.”

The 2015 State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report can be found at this link.

Highlights

Metropolitan GDP – Real metropolitan gross domestic product in Northwest Arkansas grew at an average annual pace of 4.4 percent. The region’s average annual growth rate was slower than the Austin-Round Rock region, but significantly faster than the peer average growth rate of 3.6 percent.

Employment – Employment in Northwest Arkansas grew at an average annual rate of 2.9 percent, slower than both the Austin-Round Rock and the Raleigh regions, but faster than the other peer regions, the state of Arkansas, and the nation as a whole.

Unemployment – Northwest Arkansas had the second-highest unemployment rate in comparison to its peer regions. However, at 4.6 percent, the measure was lower than the state unemployment rate of 6.1 percent and the national unemployment rate of 6.2 percent.

Establishment Growth – The number of business establishments in Northwest Arkansas increased at an average annual rate of 0.9 percent to a total of 11,998. This growth rate was the slowest among the peer regions and slower than the nation as a whole, but faster than the growth rate in Arkansas.

Per Capita Personal Income – Per capita personal incomes in Northwest Arkansas have tended to be higher than those in Arkansas, but below peer regions and the nation as a whole.

Annual Wages – Average annual wages in Northwest Arkansas have been consistently lower than in the peer regions and the nation as a whole, but average annual wages grew by a total 9 percent in Northwest Arkansas between 2010 and 2014, significantly faster than the growth rate in peer regions.

Poverty – The poverty rate in Northwest Arkansas was 16.2 percent in 2014. This rate decreased 0.6 percentage points from 2013. Still, in 2014, the Northwest Arkansas poverty rate was the second highest among peer regions.

Educational Attainment – In Northwest Arkansas, 27.9 percent of adults over the age of 25 had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2014, ranking the region last in educational attainment among peer regions but ahead of the state of Arkansas.

Academic Research and Development – More than $125.5 million of research and development expenditures were made by the University of Arkansas in 2013, up 1.9 percent from the previous year. In 2014, the University of Arkansas received 24 disclosures of intellectual property and filed 27 new patent applications and received six patent issues.

Cost of Homeownership – Homeownership costs in Northwest Arkansas were the lowest among all the peer regions, accounting for 18.7 percent of household income in Northwest Arkansas in 2010, decreasing to 17.4 percent in 2012 and dropping again to 16.3 percent in 2014.

Commuting – In 2014, 75.1 percent of Northwest Arkansas workers spent fewer than 30 minutes commuting to work, the second-shortest commute after the Des Moines-West Des Moines region.