Arkansas Economy

Arkansas was the among several states that saw higher unemployment rates in August, but U.S. Labor Department officials said Hurricane Harvey had “no discernible effect” on the nation’s employment picture last month.

Mortgage backers Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have recently changed lending rules to give more leeway to borrowers like Kristen Griffin with high student loans.

Griffin is a librarian at Nemo Vista High School in Center Ridge. She and her husband Mark are window-shopping on Zillow while their 2-year-old son Fletcher sleeps nearby.

Delta Regional Authority
dra.gov

The White House has nominated a member of U.S. Sen. John Boozman's staff to serve as co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority.

Officials announced the nomination Wednesday of Chris Caldwell, who now serves as director of special projects for Boozman. The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that works to improve regional economic opportunity in the Mississippi River Delta region.

The Delta town of Dumas is getting an economic boost with the expansion of a manufacturing operation, SAF-Holland. The $4 million investment and retrofitting of an existing structure will add new production capabilities to the company’s existing Desha County operations. It’s expected to support 65 new jobs.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Mike Preston says that adds up to quite an impact for a small town.

rice fields
Mickey Liaw / Flickr.com

After efforts to normalize trade relations between the United States and Cuba were stalled by President Donald Trump, members of Arkansas’s Congressional Delegation have set their sights on a new trade partner: China.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is beginning a two-day agriculture tour of farms in the rice-producing regions of east and northeast Arkansas. A statement from the governor’s office says he plans to discuss critical issues for the agriculture community, including flooding this year, row crop farming, and the possibility of rice sales to China.

Governor Hutchinson and the Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) gave recognition to five university researchers in the state by awarding them an ARA fellowship that comes with a $75,000 grant.

The ARA Fellows program supports distinguished researchers already working at one of the five research universities in the state, including Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Arkansas has started its fiscal year with the state's revenue coming in higher than expectations and above what was collected the same month last year.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration on Wednesday said the state's net available revenue in July totaled $454.5 million, which was $53.8 million above July 2016 and $10.5 million above forecast.

The department said individual and corporate income tax collections were above forecast and the same month last year. Sales tax collections were slightly below forecast but ahead of July 2016.

The federal agency tasked with economic development in the Delta is without a leader. It’s up to President Donald Trump to appoint a new federal co-chairman for the Delta Regional Authority. The DRA’s supporters are hoping for the President to act quickly so that tens of millions of dollars can be freed up for investment. But the Trump’s budget proposals have called for eliminating the authority entirely.

The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services says the state’s unemployment rate remained stable in June, at 3.4 percent. That rate remains lower than the national unemployment rate, which ticked upward by a tenth of a percent to 4.4 percent for the month.

The DWS says the civilian labor force grew by about 9,000 in June to 1.36 million people—which also represents an increase of about 20,000 over the same period last year.

Low unemployment, affordable housing, strong healthcare access and below-average poverty rates are the positives in the Little Rock Metropolitan area. Some negatives: a high crime rate, fewer professional and technical jobs than other cities, low employment specialization, and slow growth in the ratio of large to small businesses. That’s according to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Arkansas Economic Development Institute’s fourth annual Little Rock Metro Report Card, released Thursday.

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