Report: NW Arkansas employment grew 3% over two years

Posted: September 25, 2013 at 12:21 p.m.

Employment in Northwest Arkansas grew by 3 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to the third State of the Northwest Arkansas Region Report, released Wednesday.

The report, compiled by the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and the nonprofit Northwest Arkansas Council, found that employment in the region grew at almost double the national rate and five times faster than the Arkansas average, the university said in a statement. The report's purpose is to determine how Northwest Arkansas — the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Statistical Area — stacks up against similar regions in terms of economic competitiveness.

The report compares Northwest Arkansas against these "peer regions" in terms of attracting economic development: Tulsa; Knoxville, Tenn.; Huntsville, Ala.; Omaha and Council Bluffs in Iowa and Nebraska; and the Kansas City region in Missouri and Kansas.

Center for Business and Economic Research Director Kathy Deck said in the statement that establishment of new businesses grew slowly in the area after declining in 2009 and 2010. The report also cited the area's unemployment rate of 5.6 percent, tying the Tulsa region as the lowest among those examined, compared with the state unemployment rate of 7.3 percent and the national rate of 8.1 percent.

The area's gross domestic product grew by 7 percent from 2007 to 2011, lagging behind the Huntsville, Ala., figure of 9.3 percent and the Knoxville, Tenn., figure of 7.9 percent but exceeding the "peer" average growth rate of 1.9 percent, according to the report.