Job Market Update: Employment Increases in Metro & Regional Areas

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Looking at the latest BLS “Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment – December 2014” report, we see that unemployment was lower in December than a year earlier in 341 of the 372 metro areas. Unemployment was higher in 25 areas, and stayed the same in 6 areas. 158 metropolitan areas had rates of less than 5 percent, while 14 areas had jobless rates of at least 10 percent. The national unemployment rate in December was 5.4 percent, down from 6.5 percent a year earlier. Jumping forward, the current unemployment rate, as of January, is 5.7 percent.

Metro/Regional Highlights

The employment status per metro area shows that Yuma, Ariz. and El Centro, Calif. had the highest unemployment rates in December, 22.1 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Midland, Texas had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.1 percent.

Within the metropolitan regions that have a population of one million or more, according to the Census 2000, Memphis, Tenn. had December’s highest unemployment rate, 7.6 percent and Minneapolis came in with the lowest jobless rate, 3.3 percent. The only rate increase to occur within these large metro areas was in New Orleans, +1.5 percent.

The largest over-the-year decreases in employment occurred in Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ     (-8,100), Peoria, Ill. (-1,900) and Syracuse, N.Y. (-1,800). On the contrary, the largest over-the-year percent increase in employment in these larger metro regions occurred in Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (+4.4 percent), Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (+4.3 percent) and Huston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas (+4.2 percent).

Looking at the States

According to the BLS, 42 states and the District of Colombia had unemployment rate decreases from November, four states had increase and four states had no change. Those numbers are even stronger when looking at the over-the-year changes: 46 states and the District of Colombia with unemployment rate decreases, two states had increase and two states stayed the same.

Over-the-month, all four regions had significant unemployment rate declines: the Midwest, Northeast and South (-0.2 percentage points each) and the West (-0.1 point).

Here are some key regional and state highlights from the BLS “Regional and State Employment and Unemployment – December 2014” report:

  • Midwest: The Midwest once again had the lowest unemployment rate in December, 5.2 percent, however the region remains relatively similar in its over-the-year marks, netting a 1 percent increase from December 2013. North Dakota saw the largest over-the-year percentage change in employment gains, +4.2 percent, and continued to have the lowest jobless rate, 2.8 percent. Michigan had the highest unemployment rate for the third consecutive month at 6.3 percent. (Link:
  • New York, New Jersey Region: The New York, New Jersey region had an over-the-year unemployment rate decrease, -1.1 percent. New Jersey saw a -0.2 percent decrease over-the-month leaving the unemployment rate at 6.2 percent. New York saw some of the most significant over-the-month gains in employment for any state, +30,400. (Link:
  • Southeast: The Southeast had an unemployment rate decline in December of -0.2 percent, with Florida seeing the most significant changes in employment, +230,600. The Southeast’s weakest employing state in December was Mississippi at 7.2 percent. The regions strongest were North Carolina at 5.5 percent, closely followed by Florida at 5.6 percent. (Link:
  • West: The West saw an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent, just over the national average of 5.6 percent. California’s unemployment rate has unfortunately remained at the helm consistently in this region and December was no exception, showing a -0.2 percent decrease from November to 7 percent. Idaho was the regions strongest employer at 3.7 percent, and Hawaii came in second strongest at 4 percent.  (Link:
  • Mid-Atlantic: Rounding out the year, the Mid-Atlantic region had an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent, down -0.1 from November. Washington D.C. had the worst unemployment rate of the region at 7.3 percent while Pennsylvania and Virginia both came in at 4.8 percent, the regions strongest employers. (Link:
  • Mountain-Plains: In December, the Mountain-Plains region had an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. The field was more consistent then the other regions with Missouri having the worst unemployment rate at 5.4 percent and Utah seeing the lowest unemployment at 3.5 percent. (Link:
  • New England: The New England region saw a net change in the unemployment rate from December 2013 to December 2014 of -1.3 percent, -0.2 better than the national average. The region finished the year at a 5.6 percent unemployment rate. New England’s strongest employment performance came from New Hampshire at 4 percent. (Link:
  • Southwest: The Southwest region came in slightly stronger than the national unemployment average at 5.5 percent (-0.1 the national average). The regions strongest employing state was Oklahoma at 4.2 percent. The Southwest’s weakest employing states were Louisiana at 6.7 percent, followed by New Mexico at 6.1 percent. (Link:

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