In August 2012, unemployment rates were lower in 325 of the 372 total metro areas in the nation compared to the prior year, according to data recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate was 8.2 percent (not seasonally adjusted), compared to 9.1 percent a year earlier.

Unemployment rates were 15 percent or higher in five metro areas, and 5 percent or less in 20 metro areas.

Of the 49 metro areas with a population greater than one million residents, Oklahoma City’s 4.6 percent unemployment rate was the lowest.

Looking for employment and unemployment trends for a specific metro area? The Employment by Metro Area index allows you to click on a specific metro area to view current and historical employment and unemployment data.

Oklahoma City’s economic base benefits largely from the oil, natural gas, and energy industries. Government employment – at both the state and federal levels – also supports the local economy.  Oklahoma City is the state capital, and is also home to the Tinker Air Force Base and the Federal Transfer Center, part of the Bureau of Prisons, which houses parole violators and prisoners en route to a permanent prison facility.

Forty-three of the 49 large metro areas experienced a decrease in year-over-year unemployment, while only five recorded an increase, and one had no change.

The Las Vegas-Paradise, Nevada and the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California metro areas recorded the highest unemployment rates among large metro areas, at 12.3 percent each.

On the employment side …

In August, 274 metro areas reported annual increases in nonfarm employment, 92 reported decreases, and 6 were unchanged, compared to the prior year. On a percentage basis, Lafayette, Louisiana posted the largest year-over-year gain in employment, up 9.4 percent, while Dalton, Georgia recorded the largest percentage loss, down 5.1 percent.

Nonfarm employment rose in 36 of the 37 metro areas with employment levels above 750,000. The largest annual increase was in large metro area employment was in the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas metro area, where employment increased by 3.5 percent over the year. The Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wisconsin metro area was the only metro area in its class to record a decrease in employment over the year, although the decline was relatively small at -.5 percent.

Houston began its recovery from the recession in 2010, and has steadily increased its labor force ever since. Its employment numbers now exceed pre-recession levels, according to the Greater Houston Partnership.