Recovery Still Slow In Central Arkansas, Says Study

Jan 6, 2014

Central Arkansas is still struggling to recover from the great recession, but encouraging trends show possible future growth in some industries. That’s according to a recent report by Metroplan. It shows that in 2013, population growth outpaced job growth in the Little Rock metro area, pointing to a slow recovery. Furthermore, the study found that young adults in central Arkansas are increasingly opting to live in urban, densely populated locales.

Metroplan is an area agency that analyzes economic, social and demographic trends in Pulaski, Faulkner, Lonoke and Saline counties.  

The study’s author Jonathon Lupton says indicators like the rate of patent creation can demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of an area’s economy, citing studies by the Brookings Institution.

“There’s a close link between patenting and economic growth and also between patenting and income levels—local income levels,” he says. “And areas that have more patents also have higher income levels on average. And our region does reasonably well in terms of income compared to other metro areas but our patenting level is rather low. We only have about 14 patents per 100,000 workers.”

Lupton notes that among metro areas in the south-central region of the United States, the Little Rock Metro ranks second lowest in the number of patents it creates, outranking only Jackson, Mississippi.

Though he says encouraging developments like a regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock and plans for a downtown Little Rock Technology Park may lead to future patents and growth in the local tech sector.

As for young adults relocating to centralized areas, he says a variety of factors like economic distress and shifting family patterns may be partly influencing that trend. The study's findings were based on U.S. Census Data.

“What we see is that in 1990, a large share of our regional young adults were living in more outlying areas. And in 2010, they’re much more concentrated. And if you look closely—there are exceptions in every case—but you’ll notice there are far few young adults as a share of population in western Little Rock—west of I-430. And there are a lot more young adults living in concentrations of apartments.”

In addition, He notes that other areas like Western North Little Rock (along Maumelle Boulevard) also show a high concentration of both apartments and young adults. But the study also found that based on the number of new housing permits, outlying communities of Central Arkansas like Benton and Cabot still saw a sizable growth in the construction of single family homes .

The report provides an extensive analysis of employment and growth trends in different Central Arkansas industries, as well as other demographic and housing trends.

You can read Metroplan’s 2013 Economic Review And Outlook here.