The Metropolitan Area Employment Situation Improves Across the Nation in 2017, as Metro Areas Drive Growth in Labor Force
Unemployment rates dropped in 81 percent of the metropolitan areas in the United States from December 2016 to December 2017 (314 of 388 areas), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which released its year over year metro area employment and labor force figures for December 2017 this week. Ames, IA, had the lowest unemployment rate, 1.5 percent, followed by Urban Honolulu, HI, 1.7 percent. El Centro, CA, and Yuma, AZ, had the highest unemployment rates, 17.9 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively. Of the 51 metropolitan areas with a 2010 Census population of 1 million or more, Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN, had the lowest unemployment rate in December, 2.4 percent. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY, had the highest jobless rate among the large areas, 5.5 percent.
In 29 states, metropolitan areas outpaced the overall state in labor force growth, and in 12 states, metropolitan areas outpaced the overall state in reducing their unemployment rate.
Fairbanks, AK experienced the greatest increase in its unemployment rate, increasing 0.9 percent from 5.7 percent to 6.6 percent. El Centro, CA declined 3.0 percent, from 10.2 percent to 8.6 percent unemployment rate. Mobile, AL declined 2.9 percent, from 7.1 percent to 4.2 percent of the labor force unemployed.
Approximately two-thirds of all U.S. metros saw their civilian labor force increase from December 2016 to December 2017. Greeley, CO and Yuma, AZ both had the highest rate of overall civilian labor force growth, both growing by 6.5 percent. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO grew by 4.7 percent, the highest of any metropolitan area with a 2010 Census population of 1 million or more. Cape Girardeau, MO saw its civilian labor force decline by 8.8 percent, more than any other metropolitan area, followed by Michigan City-La Porte, IN, which declined by 4.4 percent. St. Louis, MO had the greatest decline among the 51 metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people according to the 2010 Census, declining 2.1 percent.
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We wanted to compare how metropolitan areas within a state performed compared to the state overall. The table below shows the percentage change in the civilian labor force for each state, and the sum percentage change for all metros classified as being within that state by the BLS. The change in the unemployment rate for the state is compared to the median metro unemployment rate. BLS assigns metropolitan regions to states based on the location of the first principal city. For example, New York-Newark-Jersey City is assigned to the state of New York, although parts of the metropolitan area spill into New Jersey. It is important to note when looking at the chart below that labor force figures are the rate of growth in the labor force; increasing numbers are generally considered good. When looking at the unemployment figures, we are not showing the unemployment rate, but the change in the unemployment rate over 2017; negative numbers in the second column indicate a decline in the unemployment rate, and are therefore considered good, while positive numbers are bad.
What we see is that in 29 states, metropolitan areas outpaced the overall state in labor force growth, and in 12 states, metropolitan areas outpaced the overall state in reducing their unemployment rate. In 10 states, metropolitan areas were behind the state figures in labor force growth, and in 20 states, their unemployment rate grew faster than the rest of the state. In 12 states the difference in labor force growth between the overall state and its metropolitan areas was less than one tenth of one percent, or virtually the same, and the same was true of unemployment rate change in 19 states. Click on a specific state or data point, or drag your mouse over, to interact with the data.
by Jeffrey L Garceau, Research Coordinator for MuniNet Guide