Last month, the unemployment rate in the United States fell to 7.7% of the labor force. The last time unemployment was this low was four years ago this month. An estimated 134.74 million people worked in nonfarm jobs in October, an increase of 1.8 million from October 2011.
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.