5. Midland, Texas
> Oct. 2012 unemployment rate: 3.3% (tied for 6th)
> Total population:140,308
> Median household income: $54,330
In October Midland’s unemployment rate was just 3.3% — exactly half the 6.6% unemployment rate in the state. This is a solid improvement from 12 months prior, when Midland already had the eighth-lowest unemployment rate in the country, at just 4.1%. According to the BLS, the mining, logging and construction industry was the top employment sector in the metropolitan area as of October, growing 6.3% from the prior year. In addition, Midland’s median household income of $54,330 in 2011 was nearly $5,000 higher than the median income of Texas.
4. Lincoln, Neb.
> Oct. 2012 unemployment rate: 3.2%
> Total population: 307,165
> Median household income:$49,315
Lincoln’s unemployment rate in October was slightly lower than the previous year’s rate. The University of Nebraska’s main campus is located in Lincoln, providing a strong employment boost to the region. Despite all of this, the median household income in Lincoln was lower than the median income of $50,296 across the entire state.
3. Grand Forks, N.D.-Minn.
> Oct. 2012 unemployment rate: 3.1%
> Total population: 98,512
> Median household income: $46,718
Grand Forks is one of three metropolitan areas on this list located in North Dakota, a state that has benefited tremendously from the oil boom. Out of approximately 54,200 people in the Grand Forks labor force in October, only 1,700 were unemployed, resulting in an unemployment rate of 3.1%. In October 2011, the region’s unemployment rate was 3.9%, which ties Grand Forks with Midland for the largest unemployment drop on this list. The largest employer in the region is the University of North Dakota.
2. Fargo, N.D.
> Oct. 2012 unemployment rate: 2.8%
> Total population: 211,729
> Median household income: $52,393
Fargo, the largest metropolitan area in North Dakota, was one of just two metros in the country with an unemployment rate below 3% in October. There were approximately 133,800 nonfarm jobs as of October, an increase of 4.7% compared to the previous year. Although mining, logging and construction makes up a relatively small portion of Fargo’s workforce, its workforce has increased by 17.3% in a 12-month span.
1. Bismarck, N.D.
> Oct. 2012 unemployment rate: 2.2%
> Total population: 110,879
> Median household income: $58,781
Bismarck, N.D. had the lowest unemployment rate of all metro areas in the U.S. with just 2.2% of the workforce unemployed in October. In addition, the median household income in Bismarck in 2011 was significantly higher than the U.S. median income of $50,502. There were approximately 68,800 nonfarm jobs in the metropolitan area as of October, an increase of 5.2% compared to the previous year. This includes a 7.1% increase in jobs in the education and health services sector, the largest sector in the Bismarck region.