Northwest Arkansas, the area served by BOK Financial®, is among the fastest-growing communities in the country. Benton and Washington counties experienced population increases of 28.5% and 21.1%, respectively, between 2010 and 2020—and that’s prior to the pandemic.
“This area has become a favorite destination of people looking to relocate, especially with the rise of remote work opportunities,” said Jacob Hudson, BOK Financial market executive in Arkansas. “Northwest Arkansas has been discovered.”
The pandemic trend to escape urban centers in search of literal greener pastures and open space has benefitted areas like Northwest Arkansas.
According to the business forecast produced by the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, new hires have lagged behind job openings since last summer.
“I’m hearing anecdotally that people are moving in from other places so they’re spending money here and contributing to local taxes, but they’re still working for companies in other states, so the workforce has not seen the same uptick as the population growth,” Hudson said.
However, unemployment in Arkansas has remained below the national average, coming in at 3.1% in December 2021. Looking ahead, data shared through the Arkansas Economist forecasts show that the leisure and hospitality industry will be a bright spot for the state with 7.5% growth anticipated in that industry alone by 2023.
While full-time transplants are delivering a population boom and a strain on the housing market, visitors are contributing to the economic recovery as well.
“The economy in the Northwest Arkansas market was resilient through COVID and has remained strong now that the pandemic is waning,” Hudson said. “This region has done especially well as people seek out an affordable place to visit or even relocate—and investors and developers are taking note.”