The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the U.S. job market, leaving many furloughed or jobless as the virus swept across the nation. As the nation continues the reopening process, unemployment is gradually dropping in many cities and regions.
However, some cities are improving more rapidly and dramatically than others. Two Arkansas cities were recently ranked among the top 100 cities whose unemployment rates are bouncing back the most.
Both Little Rock and Fort Smith were ranked in the top 100 for most improved unemployment rates by a WalletHub survey. Looking at 180 cities throughout the United States, the survey examined each city’s overall unemployment rate, as well as their unemployment rate in May – which was then compared to the unemployment rate they city had in May 2019 and January 2020.
Fort Smith was ranked at no. 36, 10.6 percent unemployment rate for May 2020. Compared to May 2019, Fort Smith had a 256.51 percent increase in unemployment and a 171 percent increase compared to January 2020.
Little Rock had a slightly higher unemployment rate than Fort Smith for May, coming in at 11.5 percent. The survey ranked Little Rock at no. 56. The capital city’s May 2020 unemployment rate was 265.97 percent higher than the same time in 2019 and was 219.09 percent higher than January 2020.
Despite the improvements in the unemployment rate, it is currently uncertain when the rates will return to pre-COVID numbers. Dr. Christine Moser, an professor at Western Michigan University, said that it is possible the unemployment rates may not return to the rates seen before the pandemic.
“There are too many unknowns to guess when the unemployment rate might return to more “normal” levels. They may never return to the pre-crisis level, which was historically low. I would say at least a year to get back to something that looks normal, but there are too many things that could happen between now and then,” she said.
In May, Arkansas’ state unemployment dropped significantly from its high in April. The state recorded a 9.5 percent unemployment rate for May, compared to 10.8 percent in April. This mirrors the national trend, with a peak in April followed by a substantial drop. At the national level, the April unemployment rate was 14.7 percent and the May unemployment rate was 13.3 percent.
According to the survey, the city with the most recovered unemployment rate is Lincoln, Neb. The top five cities that have recovered the most (excluding Lincoln) are, in order, Washington D.C.; Omaha, Neb.; New Haven, Conn.; and Gilbert, Ariz.