Economic Leaders Converge at ASU

November 6, 2003 - Posted at 6:06 p.m. CDT

ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY — Is Arkansas lagging behind the nation in economic recovery?

Economic experts convened at Arkansas State University Thursday to discuss the state's economic strength.  The lack of job creation is the biggest concern for those who crunch the numbers, and once again they say the upcoming holiday season will be a crucial time for many retailers.

UALR economic forecaster John Shellnut spoke to business and academic leaders at ASU's annual economic outlook conference, and said the national trend toward economic recovery has not yet make its way to the Natural State.  As for the upcoming Christmas shopping season?  "I think it will be moderate to maybe similar to last year, maybe slightly improved, but I think it would be difficult to see it much better, given the labor market conditions in the state," said Shellnut.

Economic experts say both the retail and housing sectors in both Region 8 and western Arkansas are currently doing well.

Meanwhile, though surveys of sales and profits for most businesses in Region 8 are booming, some are looking forward to better holiday numbers for their bottom line.  Arkansas-based department store chain Dillard's reported a five percent drop in earnings for October, compared to figures of one year ago.  Karen Gray manages the Dillard's store in Jonesboro's Indian Mall.  "Slowly, we've been seeing sales get better, but it's been slow...but we have a good feeling about the fourth quarter," Gray said.

Economic forecasters say the holiday season could make or break fourth quarter numbers for many Arkansas companies and businesses.