A major part of job growth occurred in America’s metropolitan areas. The Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, and D.C. regions alone combined for more than 555,000 newly employed people. While much of the total jobs growth occurred in these larger cities, several smaller regions, such as Elkhart, Indiana and Lafayette, Louisiana, benefited much more proportionally, increasing the number of jobs in their metropolitan areas by more than 5%. Comparing October 2011 employment to October 2012 employment, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 U.S. cities with the biggest proportional increase in employment, and the 10 cities with the biggest declines.
The cities that added jobs are located almost entirely in the South. While the sectors that added jobs vary across the different areas, the oil and energy industry was one sector that helped boost many of the cities’ labor forces and added a great deal of jobs. The number of jobs in the industry grew by 7.3% nationwide between October 2011 and October 2012, and operations in some of these cities, such as Odessa, Texas, and Lafayette, Louisiana, grew to a large extent because of this continuing oil boom.
Energy was not, however, the single cause of employment gains in the cities with the highest job growth. In many cases, the areas’ leading sectors simply increased hiring. Elkhart, Indiana, is one of the few remaining manufacturing-driven cities in the U.S. More than 60% of all jobs in October were in manufacturing. In the past 12 months, the region added more than 6,000 manufacturing jobs, which was greater than the total increase for the region in that time as some sectors lost jobs in the area.
These metro areas that added and lost the most jobs — relative to total size of their working population — are primarily smaller in population. Because of this, adding or losing a few thousand jobs was enough to substantially increase or decrease the employment situation in the region. For example, in Lafayette, Louisiana, the total number of people employed grew by roughly 13,000 people. That increase of 13,000 people amounted to a nearly 10% increase in the number of people employed. Los Angeles, California, also gained approximately that many jobs, but the size of their employed population increased by just 0.23%.
These cities where jobs grew the most are not necessarily the best places to find a job. Of the 10 metro areas with the biggest job growth, five still had unemployment rates above the national rate. In Rocky Mount, N.C., the October rate was 11.7%, much higher than the national rate of 7.9% that month. While some of these cities may be adding jobs, they have a long way to go before their economy can be considered healthy. The cities that lost the most jobs are also a mixed bag. Unemployment is below the national average in five, and above it in five.
Based on Bureau of Labor Statstics employment data, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas that had the largest percent increase in the number of employed people, and the 10 metropolitan statistical areas with the largest decrease. This calculation was based on a comparison of October 2011 and October 2012 non-seasonally adjusted employment figures the BLS provides. We also reviewed the sectors where jobs were added and lost in each of these metro areas.
These are the cities that added or lost the most jobs this year.
The Cities That Added the Most Jobs
10. Odessa, Texas
> Employed pct. increase: 4.93%
> Total employed increase: 3,782
> Workforce: 83,757
> Unemployment rate: 3.9%
Only 3,300 people were unemployed in Odessa’s labor force of 83,500, amounting to an unemployment rate of just 3.9%, or just over half of the national rate of 7.9% for October. The region’s largest sector by headcount — mining, logging and construction — grew by 5.4%. The second largest sector — trade, transportation, and utilities — grew by 6.3%. Odessa has significantly benefited from a strong oil industry given its location near the Permian Basin.
9. Athens-Clarke County, Ga.
> Employed pct. increase: 4.95%
> Total employed increase: 5,043
> Workforce: 114,035
> Unemployment rate: 6.2%
Over the last year, Athens added slightly more than 5,000 jobs, led by the hospitality as well as the business and professional services sectors. The additional jobs increased the total number of residents employed by nearly 5% and lowered the city’s unemployment rate to 6.2% in October, down from 7.2% the year before. In February, Caterpillar announced plans to build a plant in Athens to produce both tractors and hydraulic excavators. The company expects to hire 1,400 workers for the location in the next several years.
8. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
> Employed pct. increase: 4.98%
> Total employed increase: 6,851
> Workforce: 158,053
> Unemployment rate: 8.7%
Between October 2011 and October 2012, the Santa Cruz-Watsonville metro area added nearly 7,000 new jobs, while unemployment fell by 1.4 percentage points, from 10.1% to 8.7%. One of the largest job sectors in the area, the trade, transportation and utilities sector, added 1,100 jobs during that time. This has increased the number of workers in the field by 6.5%. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Santa Cruz County has recently added 2,200 public education jobs, much of this hiring has been for the University of California at Santa Cruz, the county’s largest employer.
7. Sebastian-Vero Beach, Fla.
> Employed pct. increase: 5.05%
> Total employed increase: 2,790
> Workforce: 64,553
> Unemployment rate: 10.2%
Trade, transportation and utilities, the largest sector in the Sebastian-Vero Beach area, grew by 6.7% between October 2011 and the same month this year. Just between September and October, employment in that sector rose from about 9,200 to about 9,600. Notably, a high-speed passenger train traveling between Orlando and Miami that will stop in Vero Beach, may have helped increase transportation jobs. The second-largest employment sector, education and health services, grew by 5.7% over the course of the year.
6. Elkhart-Goshen, Ind.
> Employed pct. increase: 5.34%
> Total employed increase: 4,362
> Workforce: 93,768
> Unemployment rate: 8.3%
The Elkhart-Goshen area was devastated by the recession. Between 2007 and 2008 alone the area’s annual unemployment rate rose from 4.6% to 8.5%, and peaked in March 2009 at 20.2%. The closings of several RV plants were especially devastating, contributing to a loss of more than 20,000 manufacturing jobs between 2007 and 2009. However, the area has since made progress recovering such jobs. As of October there were 6,300 more jobs in the local manufacturing sector than 12 months prior, a 13.5% increase. Still, many jobs remain endangered. Just recently, Cequent Performance Products announced plans to move its trailer hitch manufacturing operations to Mexico — costing 450 workers their jobs.
5. Gainesville, Ga.
> Employed pct. increase: 5.38%
> Total employed increase: 4,501
> Workforce: 94,433
> Unemployment rate: 6.6%
As of October, Gainesville’s unemployment rate was just 6.6% — more than 1 percentage point lower than the national unemployment rate of 7.9% that month. Over the course of a year, through October 2012, Gainesville has added roughly 4,500 jobs. Not only is Gainesville’s labor force larger than in any period since 1990, also 1,000 fewer resident were unemployed in October compared to the same month a year ago. In October, Kit Dunlap, the president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, told the Gainesville Times that the area benefited from increased manufacturing activity, a convenient location for commercial transporters, and a strong pro-business climate.
4. Rocky Mount, N.C.
> Employed pct. increase: 5.53%
> Total employed increase: 3,428
> Workforce: 74,095
> Unemployment rate: 11.7%
While the unemployment rate in the Rocky Mount area was still a very high 11.7% as of October, it was down considerably from the 14.0% in the same month last year as the number of employed people increased by 3,400 from the same month a year ago. Trade, transportation and utilities, the largest employment sector in the metro area, grew a sizable 7.8% between October 2011 and the year-later period. Other industries have been growing as well. For instance, drug maker Hospira announced plans in August to add 200 more jobs to its workforce of 2,400 in the area.
3. Pascagoula, Miss.
> Employed pct. increase: 5.68%
> Total employed increase: 3,709
> Workforce: 75,343
> Unemployment rate: 8.5%
Although Pascagoula’s unemployment rate of 8.5% in October was higher than the national rate of 7.9%, it was still below Mississippi’s 8.9%. The largest job growth came in the mining, logging and construction sector, with a 28.6% increase in headcount compared to October 2011. A relatively large portion of Pascagoula’s labor force works in farm jobs. Due to the seasonal nature of farm jobs, the area’s monthly unemployment fluctuates considerably.
2. Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, Va.
> Employed pct. increase: 7.17%
> Total employed increase: 5,804
> Workforce: 91,985
> Unemployment rate: 5.6%
Joblessness in the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford metro area has fallen significantly in the past several months. The unemployment rate of 5.6% in October was down from a yearly high of 7.2% just three months earlier — more than 8% more jobs were available in October compared to July. City officials have credited Virginia Tech for directly and indirectly boosting jobs. However, manufacturing has also boomed in the area, with companies such as Phoenix Packaging and Aeroprobe Corporation moving jobs into the region.
1. Lafayette, La.
> Employed pct. increase: 9.68%
> Total employed increase: 13,127
> Workforce: 152,720
> Unemployment rate: 4.2%
More job growth took place in Lafayette than any other metro area in the country. Some of the new employment growth comes from new part-time positions in the restaurant and retail sector. But Anthony Greco, a professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, recently told a local newspaper, the Town Talk, that most of the new jobs in the area are well-compensated professional positions, notably in the financial sector. Lafayette has been a haven for the oil and gas industry, and with rising gas prices have come new jobs. Headcount for trade, transportation and utilities, the largest sector in the area, grew 7.4%.
The Cities That Lost the Most Jobs
10. New Haven, Conn.
> Employed pct. decrease: 1.88%
> Total employed decrease: 5,568
> Workforce: 318,539
> Unemployment rate: 9.0%
While the rest of the nation has recovered, New Haven’s unemployment rate has risen. As of October, the area’s unemployment rate was 9%, up from 8.5% the year before. In that same time, the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 8.9% to 7.9%. Several sectors in New Haven shed jobs in 2012, led by mining, logging and construction, as well as manufacturing. In October, there were an estimated 25,500 area manufacturing jobs, a 4.8% decline from the year before. Some manufacturers may still be looking to shed jobs. In December, aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney announced it was laying off 80 workers, partly due to falling demand.
9. Dover, Del.
> Employed pct. decrease: 1.89%
> Total employed decrease: 1,335
> Workforce: 74,387
> Unemployment rate: 7.0%
Although Dover’s unemployment rate fell to 7.0% in October from 7.2% the year before, the city actually lost jobs. Through October, the number of people employed in the area declined by about 1.9% from the year before. None of the major business sectors covered by the BLS’s Economy at a Glance for Dover experienced job growth in the 12-month period.
8. Danville, Ill.
> Employed pct. decrease: 1.94%
> Total employed decrease: 637
> Workforce: 35,784
> Unemployment rate: 9.9%
Although Danville’s unemployment rate fell from 10.9% in October 2011 to 9.9% in October 2012, the area’s labor market is actually performing poorly according to a number of measures. Over the course of 12 months ending in October, Danville lost more than 600 jobs, while about 1,100 workers exited the area’s labor force. Overall, the number of area jobs declined by slightly less than 2%, while the number of area non-farm jobs declined by 2.7%. The only major business sector to experience job growth over this time was manufacturing, where there was a 5.8% increase in the number of jobs.
7. Rapid City, S.D.
> Employed pct. decrease: 1.95%
> Total employed decrease: 1,274
> Workforce: 66,829
> Unemployment rate: 4.2%
Rapid City’s unemployment rate in October was just 4.2%, lower than any other area losing a large number of jobs and one of the lowest rates in the nation. But Rapid City did not have job growth over the last 12 months. Almost 1,300 fewer people were employed in October 2012 versus the year before. According to the BLS, the only major sector that experienced job growth over the 12-month period was leisure and hospitality, which added just 300 jobs.
6. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn.
> Employed pct. decrease: 2.25%
> Total employed decrease: 12,645
> Workforce: 600,499
> Unemployment rate: 8.6%
The labor force in the Hartford area decreased by 12,500 between October 2011 and October 2012, faster than the drop in the area’s labor force.Companies such as healthcare giant Aetna, tool manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker, and equipment maker Ricoh recently cut many jobs in the area. Earlier this year, Northeast Utility laid off several hundreds of workers after it merged with NStar. Government jobs also contracted as local employees in the metro area faced layoffs due to continuing fiscal woes. Not all is bad, however. The largest employment sector, education and health services, increased headcount by a modest 2.5% to approximately 103,800 workers.
5. Auburn-Opelika, Ala.
> Employed pct. decrease: 2.37%
> Total employed decrease: 1,529
> Workforce: 67,650
> Unemployment rate: 6.7%
As of October, the number of jobs in the Auburn-Opelika area’s largest employment sector, the government, declined by 7.2% from the year before. In all, the area lost nearly 2.4% of the jobs that were available the previous October. Although the area’s unemployment rate of 6.7% remained considerably better than the national rate of 7.9%, unemployment conditions were effectively unchanged. Between October 2011 and October 2012 the unemployment rate rose by just 0.1 percentage points.
4. Colorado Springs, Colo.
> Employed pct. decrease: 2.65%
> Total employed decrease: 7,637
> Workforce: 307,237
> Unemployment rate: 8.8%
Colorado Springs lost more than 7,500 jobs between October 2011 and October 2012. Especially hard hit was the area’s mining and construction industry, which shed7.5% of all its jobs. In May, one newly opened mine laid off 70 workers. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, these job cuts were caused by lower coal prices. Other sectors in Colorado Springs struggled as well. During the 12 months ending in October, the number of area manufacturing jobs decreased by 7%.
3. Hot Springs, Ark.
> Employed pct. decrease: 3.11%
> Total employed decrease: 1,234
> Workforce: 41,360
> Unemployment rate: 7.1%
The number of nonfarm jobs in Hot Springs was approximately 36,500 in October, down 2.1% from October 2011. Despite the loss in jobs, the unemployment rate in October was actually better than the 7.5% 12 months before due to a drop-off in the total labor force, as a net of more than 1,500 people exited the area’s workforce. There were 5,600 government jobs in the metropolitan area as of October, down 1.8% from the previous year.
2. Lawton, Okla.
> Employed pct. decrease: 3.43%
> Total employed decrease: 1,528
> Workforce: 46,311
> Unemployment rate: 7.0%
Lawton’s total non-farm jobs in October declined by 3.9% from October 2011. The financial services industry shrunk by 12% in this time, the biggest drop of all the major employment sectors. One employer, Assurant Solutions, which sells insurance products, has been in the process of laying off most of its 230 employees since April of this year. Other major declines in employment took place in the education and health services sector, where headcount was reduced by 10.3%, and in trade, transportation and utilities, where employment was down by 9%.
1. Norwich-New London, Conn-R.I.
> Employed pct. decrease: 3.47%
> Total employed decrease: 4,838
> Workforce: 147,986
> Unemployment rate: 9.0%
No metropolitan area in the country experienced worse job loss in the past year than Norwich-New London. The unemployment rate of 9% in October was up from 8.2% at the same time last year. In recent months, such companies as AT&T and Pfizer cut jobs in the area, as did smaller companies. The government sector, which employs the most people in the area, declined by 4% over the year. Both New London’s municipal government and school district cut headcount in recent months.
Michael B. Sauter, Samuel Weigley and Alexander E. M. Hess