Northwest Arkansas by the numbers
Northwest Arkansas statistics tell a story of the region’s robust growth and impressive business community. Low unemployment rates, impressive job growth, and offerings of the nation’s best schools are hallmarks of life in Northwest Arkansas. Rapidly increasing population (including one-third ethnically/racially diverse individuals) brings education and artistic opportunities unique to this place and time.
The Northwest Arkansas Council created an information-filled profile of Northwest Arkansas below, combining the up-to-date statistics you might expect to learn about the region with a few gems we dug deep to find.
We’re proud of the sharp-looking infographic at the top of the page, released May 14, 2019. It’s the perfect Northwest Arkansas overview for someone who is unfamiliar with the region’s economic growth, and it’s possible to download it here.
Northwest Arkansas often draws national attention from media publications – from “best affordable places to live” to “best places for a minority-owned business,” a list of recent rankings by a variety of publications can be found elsewhere on this website.
This page was last updated in October 2019.
This section highlights numbers about the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), a region more commonly referred to as Northwest Arkansas. The area includes Benton, Madison and Washington counties in Arkansas. The area is shown in the green map at the top of this page.
There are hundreds of statistics about MSAs, but we'll focus on just a few.
People Added Per Day: 31.9 in the most recent year; 28.5 per day since April 2010. The U.S. Census Bureau makes new population estimates public again in March, and it’s typical for demographers to be surprised by how much they underestimated the region’s consistently impressive growth.
October 2019 Population: 562,600 residents by the middle of the month. That's a Northwest Arkansas Council estimate that assumes the 28.5-people-a-day increase in population between the 2010 Census and the U.S. Census Bureau's population estimate of July 1, 2018 has continued. The Census Bureau estimated the July 1, 2018 population to be 549,128.
Growth: While Northwest Arkansas is not yet a Top 100 MSA, its rate of growth from July 2010 to July 2018 was faster than 96 of the nation's 100 largest MSAs.
Top 100: Northwest Arkansas is on pace to be one of the nation's 100 largest MSAs, a Northwest Arkansas Council analysis shows. Reaching Top 100 status matters because many national publications and researchers focus on the Top 100 when they compare regions. Some think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, focus economic rankings on the Top 100.
Diversity: A Look at How Northwest Arkansas' Population is Changing was published by the Northwest Arkansas Council in December 2017, and it shows how much the region's population has transformed since 1990. By 2022, the region will be nearly 18 percent Hispanic/Latino. The Asian and Pacific Islander populations will continue to increase, too, and most of the region's minority populations are becoming larger and larger portions of the overall population. One of the world's largest populations of people from the Marshall Islands lives in Springdale, Northwest Arkansas' second largest city.
Total Nonfarm Employment: There were 266,300 workers in the region in August 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were about 150,000 jobs in the region as of mid-1998 so things have really ramped up in Northwest Arkansas.
Unemployment Rate: 2.5 percent in August 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Few regions in the U.S. can match the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA when it comes to having a consistently low unemployment rate.
Gross Metropolitan Product: $28.5 billion. That's the 2017 number published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in September 2018. It means the MSA is the nation's 93rd largest economy. The size of the economy has increased 37.6 percent ($7.8 billion) since 2012, and that’s the 15th fastest growth rate in the nation, bureau statistics show. The growth rate exceeds the metropolitan areas of Little Rock (up $3.4 billion since 2012) and Tulsa (up $300 million).
Northwest Arkansas' Big Three Fortune 500 companies — Walmart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt — are the region's largest employers. What's remarkable about them is how impressive they are when compared to companies elsewhere. Fortune magazine keeps a map on its website that shows just how impressive the Walmart revenue is compared to all companies across the U.S.
Those companies have all made new commitments to a strong future in Northwest Arkansas. Walmart, for example, plans to build a world-class new headquarters in Bentonville, and expects that project to take several years. Tyson Foods in 2017 opened a new technology hub in downtown Springdale, and J.B. Hunt in 2017 completed an impressive expansion that will lead to new jobs in Northwest Arkansas. Hunt followed that up with 132,000-square-foot expansion this year, focused on technology.
Consider these other facts about Northwest Arkansas' Big Three:
Walmart (Fortune 1) is more than twice as big as No. 2 Exxon Mobil in terms of revenue. Walmart employs 2.3 million around the world, and that's almost equal to the combined employment of Kroger, Home Depot, Lowe’s, McDonald’s, Target, Walgreens and Starbucks.
Tyson Foods (Fortune 80), by revenue, would be largest company in far larger metropolitan areas: Birmingham, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City and Tampa.
JB Hunt (Fortune 395) is bigger than JetBlue, Harley-Davidson and Yum Brands (owner of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC).
Per Capita Personal Income: $59,425 in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The amount climbed higher than $50,000 for the first time in 2014.
Cost of Living: Here's where Northwest Arkansas really pays off. While people may be able to earn more elsewhere (but that’s not allays the case!), a person's purchasing power is amazing in Northwest Arkansas. A person making $60,000 in Northwest Arkansas would need to make $75,202 in Denver to have equal purchasing power. They’d need to make $83,004 in Chicago and $129,552 in San Francisco. That last number is twice as much. Wow.
The CNN Money cost-of-living calculator used to make those comparisons can be used to compare Northwest Arkansas to any U.S. metropolitan area. Additionally, there's a cool Bankrate.com cost-of-living calculator that allows a person to get into the cost weeds, providing information about such things as the cost of housing and grocery store products (peas, milk, chicken, you name it).
People who move from elsewhere find housing prices are affordable when compared to other U.S. regions, but Northwest Arkansas home prices are rising.
Records kept on the Northwest Arkansas Board of Realtors website show there were 1,028 homes sold in Benton and Washington counties in August 2019. More than 60 percent of those homes were in Benton County.
It’s typical for the two-county area to see 550 to 750 homes sold in the winter months, and between 950 and 1,150 transactions occur in the summertime.
The average price of a home in Benton County was $261,594 in June. In Washington County, sales averaged $234,542.
Most regions in the U.S. wouldn’t include a separate entry in an economic update about cycling, but Northwest Arkansas isn’t like those other places. Mountain bikes and families’ use of the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway are huge, surging aspects of the region’s current and future economy, and there’s data to support the value of those investments in better trail systems.
Near the beginning of 2019, Northwest Arkansas’ largest city learned it will be hosting the cyclo-cross world championships in 2022, and it’s just the second time in history that the championships will be in the U.S. (Louisville hosted in 2013). Don’t know cyclo-cross? You’ll love this video about what’s going to play out in our own Fayetteville!
Northwest Arkansas residents already know how important cycling is to the region’s economic picture. In 2018, a study published by the Walton Family Foundation, which supports the region’s cycling community in a big way, showed the economic impact of the region’s natural-surface trails and shared-use paved paths was near $137 million in 2017.
Bike tourism is a growing part of what’s happening in the region. Locals are staying active on the trails, too, with 27 percent of residents reporting they rode at least six times in 2017, and that’s 11 percent higher than the national average.
To see what cycling is all about in Northwest Arkansas, the Oz Trails website provide an impressive introduction to all-things cycling in the region.
Arts and Cultural
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art attracted 600,000 visitors in 2018, and it's recognized across the U.S. for its excellence. Asher B. Durand's Kindred Spirits, Charles Willson Peale's George Washington, and Norman Rockwell's iconic Rosie the Riveter are among the most recognized paintings in the museum's amazing collection.
The museum in Bentonville is the centerpiece of Northwest Arkansas' thriving, growing arts scene. A study completed in 2017 by Americans for the Arts showed the arts and culture industry in the region generated $131.2 million in economic activity in 2015. That was way beyond the $45 million in activity noted five years earlier.
The opening of Crystal Bridges in 2011, the Walmart AMP outdoor music venue in 2014, Scott Family Amazeum children's museum in 2015 and the expansion of the Walton Arts Center in 2016 are widely recognized as major factors in the dramatic increase in economic impact created by arts and culture amenities.