The recent federal government shutdown limited the data available on Fort Smith regional economy for September, according to the report released Oct. 31 by the Center for Business Research and Economic Development (CBRED) at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith.
The September Monthly Economic Indicators Index report revealed weaker retail sales (for August), but auto sales and area homes sales improved in September, according to Dr. Kermit Kuehn, CBRED director. No data was available for employment and residential construction activity for September due to shutdown of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.
The latest numbers for the overall Economic Activity Index for the month was for August (the latest available due to the lag in retail sales data), which rose 3.2 percent over a year ago.
According to the report, August retail sales were lower than a year ago, coming in nearly 1.1 percent below August 2012. Year-to-date retail activity for the MSA remained in positive territory for 2013, however.
"Retail sales have struggled for much of the year," Kuehn said, “suggesting that we could face a challenging holiday season as well.”
New and used auto sales continued to rise year-over-year with sales up nearly 6 percent over September 2012. Kuehn noted that used-car unit sales were nearly 10 percent higher than a year ago, while new-car unit sales were actually lower for the month.
Data regarding non-farm employment for the Fort Smith MSA was unavailable from the Bureau of Labor Statistics due to the shutdown.
September home sales for the MSA rose again, up 5.5 percent from a year ago. The positive results follow very strong July and August performances relative to 2012 levels. The average price of a home was noticeably lower, however, down 16 percent from a year ago.
Data regarding residential construction activity for September from the Census Bureau was unavailable due to the shutdown.
Airport traffic numbers were lower in September, breaking a three-month string of improvements, year-over-year. Passenger traffic for the month was down 2.2 percent. Traffic for the year remains 2.5 percent below a year ago at this time.