The U.S. unemployment rate fell 0.6 percentage points between February 2012 and February 2013, from 8.3% to 7.7% — the lowest it had been since 2008 based on seasonally adjusted figures.
Meanwhile, in some metropolitan statistical areas, unemployment rates proportionately fell much more than it did nationwide. In Palm Coast, Florida, the unemployment rate fell by 2.5 percentage points from a year ago to 10.3% the past February. The metro areas with the biggest declines still generally have high unemployment, and it remains to be seen whether this short-term improvement will translate into long-term recovery. These are the 10 metro areas with the biggest declines in unemployment.
These metro areas were among the hardest-hit economies in the country, with unemployment in places like Merced, Modesto, and Palm Coast, rising well above 15%. Several of these cities, despite the improvement, still have among the highest unemployment rates in the U.S.
The exceptions are cities like Boise, Idaho, which had an unemployment rate of 9.6% in February of 2010, just below the national rate of 9.8%. The area’s unemployment rate as of February 2013 was 6.5%. — well below the U.S. figure.
Martin Kohli, chief regional economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics explained that one clue to the stability of long-term job growth in these cities is the type of jobs added — whether they are payroll positions rather than agricultural or self-employed ones. In some of these places, like Merced, California, he explained, there was a healthy increase in payroll jobs, while in cities like Madera, California this wasn’t the case. “If you’re really recovering, you want to see positive changes in a lot of different areas, and you’re seeing that for Merced, but you’re not seeing it for Madera,” Kohli said.
In our analysis, we only reviewed the cities where the labor forces were growing. Cities like Coeur D’alene, Idaho and Yuba City, California have also had substantial declines in unemployment, but also had labor forces decline by more than 2%. The cities on our list have had the number of people looking for jobs increase and the number of people without jobs decrease — a sign that jobs are being added at a faster rate than people are joining the labor force.
Based on change in the unemployment rates between February 2012 and 2013, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the eight Metropolitan Statistical Areas with the biggest percentage point decline in non seasonally adjusted unemployment. From the U.S. BLS, we also reviewed unemployment rate changes from previous years, as well as the change in unemployment from October, 2009 — the U.S. peak unemployment — to the current rate. The BLS also provided nonfarm payroll growth over that time. All metropolitan employment numbers are not seasonally adjusted. The national unemployment rate change we mention is seasonally adjusted.
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