- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - New estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau show northwest Arkansas leads in population growth, followed by the Jonesboro and Little Rock areas.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1m8nE76) Thursday that the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metropolitan area saw a 1.9 percent increase in population from 2012-13. Jonesboro’s population saw a 1.2 percent increase, while the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway metropolitan area grew at a 0.9 percent rate.

The state’s growth patterns reflect a national trend of populations moving from rural areas to cities, according to economist Michael Pakko. Pakko is the chief economist and state economic forecaster at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“Northwest Arkansas, Jonesboro, outlying counties in central Arkansas, that’s where you’ll see the most growth,” Pakko told the newspaper. “People are moving to where the jobs are.”

The 2013 federal census figures also show northwestern Arkansas saw an average increase of 24 people per day in the area.

Pakko said northwest Arkansas “is becoming a regional hub of economic activity” and has seen increases in employment opportunities since the recession’s official end in 2009. And Jonathan Lupton, a research planner, said Little Rock has seen growth in jobs too. Lupton works for Metroplan, a city planning organization serving several central Arkansas counties, including Pulaski County.

In Jonesboro, commercial development in the city’s downtown area is booming, according to Marsha Guffey, the city’s metropolitan planning organization coordinator. Guffey added recent annexation of neighborhoods into the city have increased residential development in the area.

And while Arkansas has seen sluggish employment opportunities overall, Pakko said it hasn’t affected the state too much in terms of population growth.

“People are still moving to Arkansas in spite of the fact that we’ve had relatively slow job growth since the end of the recession,” he said.

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Information from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. (https://bit.ly/1m8nE76)

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