Economist Predicts Growth for Arkansas Economy

A top economist at the University of Arkansas predicted positive trends for the Arkansas economy, suggesting the state will reach new employment highs.

Economist Kathy Deck made those predictions today at 21st annual Business Forecast luncheon in Rogers.

The state’s industrial mix and workforce quality are the keys to both short- and long-term prosperity within Arkansas, said Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Regarding Northwest Arkansas, Deck said the region has been experiencing an employment recalibration among its major employers that should set the stage for reasonable employment gains over the next 12 months.

Deck shared additional insights about the Arkansas economy at Friday’s luncheon, which was attended by nearly 1,000 business and government leaders. Her insights included:

  • Arkansas gross domestic product (GDP) continued to be more concentrated in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, trade and transportation, management of companies, other services and government than the U.S. average.
  • The pace of employment growth in Arkansas means that by the end of 2015, the state should just have re-achieved prerecession employment highs.
  • There were net job losses in the financial and information sectors in Arkansas in 2014.
  • Despite these losses, the unemployment rate in Arkansas has fallen to 5.6 percent from its post-recession high of 9 percent.
  • Although the Arkansas labor force declined on a year-over-year basis for every other month in 2014, in December the labor force was higher than it was at the same time in 2013.
  • In 2014, employment growth was positive Central Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas and Jonesboro.
  • In Northwest Arkansas, the manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities and information sectors had employment declines on a year-over-year basis in 2014, but overall employment grew by 1.4 percent.
  • Economic growth in 2015 will be continue to be led by construction, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.

Deck's insight into the Arkansas economy was shared just three days after the Northwest Arkansas Council unveiled a new regional strategic plan. The three-year plan, which will be pursued by Council staff, Council members and dozens of regional partners with expertise in some of the objectives, focuses on such things as strengthening the region's workforce, advancing leadership and upgrading infrastructure.

The Center for Business and Economic Research coordinates the Business Forecast luncheon so that leaders can hear top economists give their insight into the economic conditions in the state, nation and world over the next year. The center is a public service/outreach organization whose mission is to serve its constituents with the highest quality research support; basic and applied business and economic analysis; timely, relevant business, economic and related public policy information; and other outreach activities. In addition to supporting research within the college, the center supports economic development by providing economic and demographic data and analysis to business, government and individuals. The center also actively works with the economic development community of the state to build Arkansas’ capacity to create high-wage, high-skill employment.