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davis5rig2In years past when you thought of economic powers in terms of individual states, Arkansas wouldn’t have exactly landed near the top. In fact in 2007 Arkansas barely beat out Mississippi and West Virginia for the nations worst GDP per capita at $27,781. It seems somewhat ironic that in the midst of an economic crisis Arkansas is now making headlines.

No one is saying that Arkansas is thriving in the middle of a recession. Only time will tell if the state will succumb to national economic woes. However, as shocking as it may be, for the time being the Arkansas economy certainly remains stable. While the state has not been immune to the recent spike in unemployment rates, figures show unemployment in Arkansas well below the national average. While layoffs have been present, the creation of new jobs has helped to  fill the gap. Hewlett Packard and Caterpillar both announced they will soon be bringing 1,800 new jobs to the Little Rock area.

The simplest reason to the regions stability is its large number of blue collar jobs. While the state is most known for being the home of Wal-Mart, the region also hosts trucking giant J.B Hunt as well as Tyson Foods. The biggest boost to Arkansas, mainly in the northern section, has been the natural gas boom. Several years ago large energy companies including Halliburton and Chesapeake set up shop and started drilling in the Fayetteville, Barnett, and Albion shale’s providing hundreds of jobs.

In Searcy, Arkansas, the place I currently call home, gas companies have not only provided numerous jobs, they have put money in the pockets of local land owners. Even if there isn’t a gas rig anywhere near your property, gas companies must still lease land if they are exploring for or extracting natural gas. In addition to this people hate energy companies and the energy companies know it. This is why gas companies across Arkansas have run extensive PR campaigns to combat the negative vibe that engulfs every energy company. These campaigns have dumped large amounts of funds into local commerce, schools and universities, as well as public transportation.

Another reason for stability is the housing crisis hasn’t hit Arkansas, or rather, it wasn’t a head-on collision in comparison to the rest of the nation. Again this is not to say that the housing market in Arkansas is booming, or even growing; however in 2008 the median house value grew by over 1% in the Little Rock metro area. The biggest reason for stability in the housing markets is there was no housing boom or over building in the past, a factor that has devastated real estate in places like Arizona, Las Vegas, and many parts of California.

In my observations I think many residents are quite unaware of the economic crisis our nation is dealing with. That isn’t to say they are uninformed…ok maybe they are just a little, but that’s beside the point. The bottom line is most blue collar workers in the state are not hurting financially in the least. In fact the only thing currently outraging Arkansans is the $.54 tobacco tax that went into effect last Sunday.