Arkansas Economy

A dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was shown to reporters at the Arkansas Department of Health on Dec. 14, 2020 just before the first doses were administered in the state.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas President and CEO Randy Zook says the business community’s reaction to a Biden executive order mandating vaccines has been "muted." He also said an upcoming legislative session to reform the tax code should include changes to the corporate income tax.

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Arkansas could lose over $100 million in federal aid for renters. On Monday, the state was identified as having one of the lowest disbursement rates for funding provided by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Emergency Rental Assistance program.

Over $173 million has been earmarked for rent relief in Arkansas as part of COVID-19 assistance provided directly to states by the federal government. According to Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Arkansas has distributed less than 3% of its allotment, which could expire at the end of September.

(Clockwise) Arkansas Tourism Director Travis Napper, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock, Secretary of Parks, Heritage & Tourism Stacy Hurst and Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston discuss efforts to draw tourists back to Arkansas.
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While COVID-19 has impacted tourism and travel as well as business expansion, Arkansas is pushing forward to remain open and ready for business. Tourism and economic officials in Arkansas have spent many years trying to convince people to work, live and play in Arkansas.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Bentonville think tank Heartland Forward released a report Wednesday that offers guidance to Arkansas policymakers seeking to strengthen the state’s economic rebound and growth as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force commissioned the study, called the Arkansas Economic Recovery Strategy. For a PDF of the 77-page study, click here.

According to a news release, Heartland Forward analyzed comprehensive data across six critical economic areas for the report:

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

Arkansas ended fiscal year 2021 with a revenue surplus of $945.7 million thanks in part to a COVID-19 induced shift in a tax filing deadline from April to July that pushed some of fiscal 2020 income tax payments into 2021.

The state’s tax revenue surplus in the previous two fiscal years totals $1.315 billion.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) reported Friday that gross revenue for fiscal year 2021 (July 2020 to June 2021) is $8.121 billion, up 16.6% compared with the previous fiscal year and up 18.2% over the budget forecast.

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A new program aims to provide low-income Arkansans with financial support for broadband internet access.

State and local officials, including Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., are partnering on a public awareness campaign for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program from the Federal Communications Commission.

Economist Malvin Jebaraj with the University of Arkansas Walton College of Business said he's extremely encouraged by the state's April jobs report.
Talk Business & Politics

University of Arkansas Walton College economist Mervin Jebaraj says the April 2021 Arkansas jobs report is layered with good news.

Labor officials reported two weeks ago that Arkansas’ jobless rate in April remained stable at 4.4% from March and it was dramatically down from the 10% unemployment rate recorded in April 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jebaraj said April was good because it reversed a three-month trend of people exiting the state’s labor force.

Sen. John Boozman, Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. French Hill talk with reporters Tuesday after touring the Port of Little Rock and meeting with businesses located there.
Chris Banks / KUAR News

Political leaders in Arkansas are strategizing methods to attract more businesses around the country to the Port of Little Rock. On Tuesday, three members of the state’s congressional delegation toured the facility by bus to discuss the progress of the area’s infrastructure.

U.S. Rep. French Hill was joined by fellow Republicans, senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman to meet with Port Director Bryan Day. They engaged in an open dialogue with businesses located at the port to discuss how to make Arkansas more desirable as an economic partner.

Arkansas' revenue has outpaced expectations for the month of May, while the state's budget surplus has risen to its highest level.

The state's net available general revenue for the month of May totaled just over $655 million, nearly an 80% jump over this time last year and about $263 million above forecast.

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Murphy USA Inc. plans to hire 3,000 workers across its 1,650 stores to support the company’s continued growth. The El Dorado-based company, with an estimated 2 million customers per day, will seek full-time and part-time employees, according to a press release from the company.

Current incentives include a 2021 Summer bonus of $500 at select stores for new team members who are hired by May 31.

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Road and river travel continues to be affected as the closure of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River stretches on.

Transportation officials said repairs could take months after the bridge was closed Tuesday following the discovery of a crack in a steel beam during an inspection.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

Calendar shifts with tax filing, an improving economy and federal stimulus payments helped boost April tax revenue almost 20% more than the forecast, and pushed the state’s year-to-date revenue surplus – “net available revenue” collected beyond the estimate – to $716.8 million.

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UA Walton College economist Mervin Jebaraj said new tax cuts and those proposed for later this year could help in a variety of ways, especially for lower income Arkansans, and he suggested the state’s businesses will have to work harder to overcome a national negative reputation in the wake of this year’s high-profile controversies in the legislature.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

Tax revenue through the first nine months of Arkansas’ fiscal year is up 7.5%, and the fiscal year-to-date revenue surplus – “net available revenue” collected beyond what was estimated – totaled $549.9 million.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

The February tax revenue report again shows broad year-over-year gains to include an almost 15% increase in statewide sales and use tax revenue – a sign that consumer spending appears to be robust.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

Arkansas’ tax revenue picture continues to be impressive, with gross revenue for the first seven fiscal months (July-January) up almost 10% compared with the same period in 2019-2020. January revenue was up more than 20% above forecast.

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Arkansas employers added more than 65,000 jobs between November and December, pushing the state’s jobless rate down from 6.3% in November to 4.2% in December, according to Tuesday’s report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of employed in Arkansas during December was an estimated 1,303,673, down 12,396 jobs compared with December 2019. The year-over-year job losses are down considerably compared to the 78,011 jobs between November 2019 and November 2020.

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Arkansas businesses can now apply for a second round of loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP.

The second set of loans from the federal program opened to businesses getting loans from lenders with under $1 billion in assets late last week, and will open for all other businesses Tuesday.

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson and officials with Mars Petcare were in Fort Smith on Friday to announce a $145 million expansion of the company’s plant at Chaffee Crossing that will create more than 120 jobs.

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Business, healthcare and service industry jobs have seen the steepest downturn in Arkansas as a result of the coronavirus pandemic according to a new report by central Arkansas planning agency Metroplan.

The biannual Economic Trends and Outlook Report shows a drop of roughly 11% in leisure and hospitality jobs between April 2019 and April 2020, as well as just under 7% for education and healthcare and about 5% in business.

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Arkansas’ economy continues to outperform its forecasts, according to the most recent revenue report.

The December revenue report, released Tuesday by the Department of Finance and Administration, shows the state’s net available general revenue totaled $530.3 million for December, which is 7.3% above forecast, but $17.2 million or -3.1% below last year’s amount.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

Gains in retail and vehicle sales, along with a shift in individual income tax payments, continue to show up in Arkansas tax revenue that beats estimates. For the first five fiscal months (July-November), gross revenue is up almost 12% compared with the same period in 2019.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration reported Wednesday that gross revenue for fiscal year-to-date is $3.092 billion, up 11.9% compared with the same period in 2019 and up 11% over the budget forecast.

Nice-Pak company officials announced Monday they will be doubling production capacity at their Jonesboro facility that makes disinfectant wet wipes.
Nice-Pak

A company that produces disinfectant wet wipes is expanding its facility in northeast Arkansas. Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined Nice-Pak officials online Monday to make the announcement. The New York-based company is among the world’s largest wet wipes producers.

Chairman and CEO Robert Julius says the Jonesboro facility has shifted to around-the-clock operations to meet rising demand amid the pandemic. Even prior to the pandemic, the company employed about 400 people at the plant.

David Monteith / KUAR News

Tax revenue in Arkansas' first four fiscal months (July-October) totaled $2.558 billion, up 13.8% from the same period in 2019 and 12% over the budget forecast. The increase has resulted in $242.6 million in revenue above what was expected.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

Arkansas tax revenue continues to beat prior-year levels and forecasts despite an economy weighed down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tax collections during the first quarter (July-September) of the fiscal year provided $158.8 million more in available revenue than expected.

The gross general revenue was $1.993 billion, up 17.7% compared to the same period in 2019, and up 11.6% above the budget forecast, according to Friday’s (Sept. 2) report from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA).

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The group tasked with disbursing the $1.25 billion Arkansas received from the CARES Act has approved new funds to go toward stabilizing the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.

Members of the state CARES Act steering committee on Friday voted to approve the infusion of $165 million from the federal coronavirus bailout to the fund at a meeting held virtually. This comes as the panel faced a deadline of Sept. 30 to stabilize the fund, otherwise employers would have to pay an extra $10 per employee per year in taxes.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

As measured by double-digit gains in sales tax revenue in the state’s August report, Arkansans continued to spend through the summer despite COVID-19 worries, with gross revenue up almost 30% to $1.331 billion during the first two months (July-August 2020) of the fiscal year.

The gross general revenue was up 29.4% compared to the same period in 2019, and up 11.2% above the budget forecast, according to Wednesday’s report from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA).

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration building in Little Rock.
KUAR News

Arkansas State tax revenue in July totaled $766.8 million, up 47.2% thanks to an almost 90% growth in individual income tax resulting from a tax deadline shift from April to July, according to Tuesday’s report from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Fiocchi
Fiocchi of America

A 225-year old Italian company with a large North American presence is expanding manufacturing operations in Central Arkansas.

Fiocchi of America, the U.S. subsidiary of Italy-based Fiocchi Group, announced plans Wednesday to establish a new manufacturing facility in Little Rock. It will invest $15 million in a new facility and hire 85 skilled employees with plans to further increase its workforce as the facility reaches its full potential.

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When the coronavirus pandemic first reached Arkansas in mid-March, Alma Mayor Jerry Martin took action.

“When I thought about it, it would be best for our employees to go ahead and furlough now while they could take advantage of the unemployment setup the way that it was, than to wait until September, October and us be at a place where it looked like we were going to have a hard time making payroll and paying bills,” Martin said.

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