American Cities Adding the Most Jobs

The Great Recession has affected nearly every person in the United States. But the recovery has fared better in some parts of the country than others. 24/7 Wall St. looked at the 10 metropolitan areas with the largest employment growth between June 2009, near the peak of the recession, and June 2012.

Read: American Cities Adding the Most Jobs

Of the 10 metros on our list, four are located in Texas. The Lone Star state generally fared better than much of the country during the recession, at least partially because the housing crisis didn’t hit it as hard. Notably, lending standards for mortgages were more strict than in other parts of the country, Alec Friedhoff, a research analyst with the Brookings Institute, told 24/7 Wall St. Texas was also helped by a recent boom in natural gas, creating jobs both directly in the energy sector and indirectly in supporting and related industries such as transportation.

Some of the job growth data should be considered skeptically, especially in smaller metropolitan including some on this list, Milken Institute Senior Economist Armen Bedroussian told 24/7 Wall St. He notes the percentages and number of people employed or unemployed could fluctuate widely due to the decisions of one company to hire or fire. For instance, in Columbus, Ind., when the area’s largest employer, engine manufacturer Cummins, makes decisions about its employment needs, it affects the entire region.

Throughout the country, certain jobs are growing while others are in decline, especially in the last year. In terms of growth, Friedhoff points to the manufacturing sector making a comeback, helping states such as Michigan. Meanwhile, Bedroussian points to recent growth in the technology sector, which has helped boost employment in Texas cities such as Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

Jobs in industries like  financial services are in decline due to effects of the European debt crisis, Bedroussian says. Government employment is also down. Due to lower government revenue and austerity measures, the public sector at both the state and local levels has declined and could continue to do so, especially in services such as education, according to both Friedhoff and Bedroussian.

When looking at the 10 metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of growth in people employed, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data for 374 metropolitan areas from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We considered the number and percentage change in the labor force, total employed and unemployed between June 2009 and June 2012, as well as changes on an annual basis during that time, including the past 12 months, to determine if these changes were recent. For the metro areas, we also looked at data from the BLS about the types of jobs people are employed in as of June 2012 and whether the number of employed people has increased or decreased over the past year. we often compared those figures to the state as a whole. It should be noted that for these periods, we looked at the number of employed people, unemployed people, and the labor force, which is the combination of those two groups.

These are the 10 metropolitan areas with the largest increase in employees from June 2009 to June 2012.

10. Lafayette, La.
>Pct. increase of employed: 8.5%
>Increase in people employed: 11,032 (52nd highest)
>June 2009 unemployment rate: 6.3% (26th lowest)
>June 2012 unemployment rate: 6.2%(54th lowest)

Despite the fact that the percent of residents employed has increased, the number of unemployed people in Lafayette actually increased as well since the peak of the recession. This is because the labor force, the total number of employed and unemployed people in area, increased overall —  9.8%, the third greatest increase of all metropolitan areas measured, since June 2009. The largest improvement has been in the past 12 months, all but a 1,000 of the 13,400 labor force increase has been since June 2011. A wide array of industries have added jobs in the past year. Employment in the mining and logging industry grew by 17.8% in the past year. Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry’s labor force has grown by 17.1% during the same period, while professional and business services has grown by 14.7%.

9. Naples-Marco Island, Fla.
>Pct. increase of employed: 8.6%
>Increase in people employed: 10,688 (56th highest)
>June 2009 unemployment rate: 11.5% (70th highest)
>June 2012 unemployment rate: 8.8% (136th highest)

In the past 12 months, the unemployment rate in the Naples-Marco Island metro area dropped from 11% to 8.8%, the ninth largest drop of all 374 metro areas. During that time, the number of employed individuals has risen from 130,000 to 135,537. The biggest job growth during that time was in the leisure and hospitality sector, with 5.6% more people working in the sector year-over-year. Since June 2011, mining, logging and construction industry headcount was down 3.4%. Much of that decline was likely in the construction sector. In Florida, construction jobs have fallen as the state continues to struggle with the housing market bust. Public sector employment in June 2012 was also down 2.4% in the Naples area compared to the prior year.

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8. Elkhart-Goshen, Ind.
>Pct. increase of employed: 8.9%
>Increase in people employed: 7,171 (80th highest)
>June 2009 unemployment rate: 18.2% (4th highest)
>June 2012 unemployment rate: 8.9% (127th highest)

Few metropolitan areas were hit harder by the recession than Elkhart. Known for its manufacturing of recreational vehicles, the area’s unemployment rate shot up to 18.2% by June 2009 when demand for those products dried up. However, companies such as Drew Industries have been bringing back those jobs to the region as demand has recovered. The percentage of people unemployed decreased by 51.1% from June 2009 to June 2012, the second largest drop of all metro areas surveyed. The manufacturing sector, by far the largest employment sector in the area with 54,000 workers as of June 2012, has grown in headcount by 12.7% from the prior year. The manufacturing sector added 7,200 jobs since January 2012 alone.

7. Holland-Grand Haven, Mich.
>Pct. increase of employed: 9.0%
>Increase in people employed: 10,230 (61st highest)
>June 2009 unemployment rate: 13.0 % (38th highest)
>June 2012 unemployment rate: 7.2% (110th lowest)

While the labor force in some metropolitan areas on this list grew by nearly 10%, or in some cases even more,  the labor force in Holland only grew by 2.7% from June 2009 to June 2012, in the top quarter of all metro areas surveyed. But unemployment has dropped nearly six percentage points from June 2009 to June 2012. In the past year alone, manufacturing headcount has grown 9.1% in Holland, far better than the 3.8% manufacturing growth in Michigan as a whole. Bedroussian of the Milken Institute points out that Holland is known for its furniture manufacturing, which could be in higher demand as the housing market begins to recover. The government sector has also grown 9.2% in the past year, while the entire state has cut 1.5% of jobs in the public sector.

6. Laredo, Texas
>Pct. increase of employed: 9.0%
>Increase in people employed: 7,945 (76th highest)
>June 2009 unemployment rate: 9.6% (168th highest)
>June 2012 unemployment rate: 7.9% (173rd lowest)

Laredo’s labor force has grown from 94,934 people in the peak of the recession to 104,171 people in June 2012, an increase of 9.7%, the fourth biggest increase of all metropolitan areas measured. In the last year alone, the labor force has grown 3.9%, the 14th highest rate of all metro areas. Trade, transportation and utilities, the largest industry by employment numbers in Laredo, was up 6.6% from June 2011 to June 2012, far better than the 2.3% increase in Texas in the same industry. The Milken Institute’s Bedroussian notes that cross-border trading between the U.S. and Mexico has been rising, which is likely playing a role in job creation for the metropolitan area, both in trading and in transportation jobs.

5. Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, Va.
>Pct. increase of employed: 9.9%
>Increase in people employed: 7,089 (82nd highest)
>June 2009 unemployment rate: 9.6% (168th highest)
>June 2012 unemployment rate: 7.0% (95th lowest)

While the labor force didn’t grow as much in Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford as much as it did in other places such as Lafayette or Laredo in the past three years, it did increase by a solid 5.9% from June 2011 to June 2012, the 18th highest out of 374 metro areas. In the last year, Volvo has brought 700 employees back to its plant in the metro area following recent surges in North American sales. Blacksburg has also added government jobs at a much faster clip than the state of Virginia as a whole. Government workers comprised 22,800 employees as of June 2012, up 5.6% compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, Virginia’s government sector jobs have barely increased at all in the last year.

4. Gainesville, Ga.
>Pct. increase of employed: 10.6%
>Increase in people employed: 8,437(68th highest)
>June 2009 unemployment rate: 9.8% (161st highest)
>June 2012 unemployment rate: 7.5% (136th lowest)

Between June 2009 and June 2012, the number of people employed in the Gainesville metropolitan area increased by 10.6%, one of only four metropolitan areas out of 374 to see an increase of more than 10% in those three years. The labor force as a whole increased by 6.8% during this time, the 12th largest increase of all metro areas. While the number of people employed increased by 8,437, the number of people unemployed decreased by 1,611. The number of people in non-farm jobs was roughly 80,500 as of June 2012, according to the BLS. This was an increase of 8.1% from the year-ago period.

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3. Midland, Texas
>Pct. increase of employed: 11.2%
>Increase in people employed: 8,265 (69th highest)
>June 2009 unemployment rate: 6.6% (36th lowest)
>June 2012 unemployment rate: 4.3% (7th lowest)

The unemployment rate in Midland never reached high national numbers. The June 2009 unemployment rate of 6.6% was well below the 9.5% in the U.S. And the employment situation continued to improve in the years that followed. In June 2012, the Midland metropolitan area had 85,904 people in the labor force, up 14% from the 75,284 people in the force back in June 2009 — the largest percent increase of all metropolitan areas except for Odessa. The mining, logging and construction industry, the largest employment sector in Midland with approximately 19,900 employees as of June 2012, added 7.6% more jobs from a year earlier. This was actually less than Texas as a whole, where the number of jobs in the industry has grown by 12.6% from last year.  The major down spot for employment in Midland is the government sector, which has declined 8.2% from June 2011 to June 2012.

2. Columbus, Ind.
>Pct. increase of employed: 14.5%
>Increase in people employed: 5,066 (98th highest)
>June 2009 unemployment rate: 10.7% (111th highest)
>June 2012 unemployment rate: 6.3% (59th lowest)

The labor force of the Columbus metro area has increased by 9.2% from June 2009 to June 2012, the fifth-largest increase of all metropolitan areas. In the last year alone, the labor force has grown 5.9%, while the percentage of people employed grew by 7.4%, biggest increase of all but three metro areas. Manufacturing, the largest employment sector in Columbus, has grown measurably in the past year. Columbus is the home of engine manufacturer Cummins, which has been adding jobs over the last year and will continue to do so as the demand for its products remains high. Meanwhile, employment in the leisure and entertainment sectors rose 13.9% in the same period.

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1. Odessa, Tex.
>Pct. increase of employed: 18.4%
>Increase in people employed: 12,313 (45th highest)
>June 2009 unemployment rate: 9.6% (168th highest)
>June 2012 unemployment rate: 4.9% (15th lowest)

The size of the labor force has grown dramatically in Odessa since 2009, when it was comprised of just 71,771 people. Since 2009, the labor force has grown to 83,424, an increase of 16.2%, and the largest increase of all metropolitan areas measured. The growth in employment has been spread across a number of industries, many of which have seen double-digit year-over-year growth in the past year, including in financial service, trade, transportation and utilities, and leisure and hospitality.  In the past year, the unemployment rate dropped 49%, the third largest drop of all metro areas measured.

Samuel Weigley

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