American Cities Adding (and Losing) the Most Jobs

December 12, 2013 by Mike Sauter

U.S. payrolls rose by more than 200,000 in November as employers continued to hire at a steady pace. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.0%, the lowest it has been since late 2008. While the figures generally point to an overall improvement in the economy and labor market, the progress isn’t even across the nation, and in some areas, jobs are still being shed.

In some parts of the country, however, job growth is especially strong. Such is the case in the metro area of Naples-Marco Island, Florida, where the number of jobs jumped by 7.59% over the past year. In other areas of the country the job market remains extremely weak. The number of jobs in Decatur, Illinois, fell by 4.3% over the past year. Based on the most recently available data, 24/7 Wall St. identified the metropolitan statistical areas with the greatest percent gains, and losses, in jobs.

Click here to see the cities that are adding jobs

Click here to see the cities that are losing jobs

Nationally, several industries have been driving job growth. In several of the metro areas that added the most jobs in the past 12 months, these industries have been a major factor as well. Martin Kohli, chief regional economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), noted that “the continued boom in energy exploration appears to be a factor in why these areas in are doing relatively well.” In Midland and Odessa, Texas, two of the cities adding the most jobs, mining accounted for a great deal of job growth.

In other metro areas where jobs are on the rise, the housing sector has played a major role. Job growth in construction and new housing starts have begun to pick up after reaching multi-decade lows during the recession. This is especially important for the four fast-growing job markets in Florida, Kohli explained. An improved housing market is important “because areas in Florida were among those hardest hit by the bursting of the housing bubble.”

Employment in the manufacturing sector rose last year, but in many of the metro areas losing the most jobs, the long-struggling sector continued to decline. In Peoria and Decatur, Illinois, which both had among the largest job losses between October 2012 and October 2013, manufacturing employment declined 8.4% and 16.1%, respectively, during that time.

Largely because of continued budget-tightening, nationwide government employment in October was slightly lower than the same month in 2012. In several of the cities losing the most jobs, government employment declined even more. In Manhattan, Kansas, where overall jobs fell by 3.5%, the number of government jobs fell by nearly 10%.

To identify the 10 cities adding and losing the most jobs, 24/7 Wall St. examined the one year change in total non-farm payroll from figures published by the BLS for each metro area between October 2012 and October 2013. Additional figures on unemployment and labor force size are also from the BLS, as are data referencing the industry composition of the workforce in specific metro areas. Wage data from the Bureau are as of May 2012. Many of these areas are small and data may be subject to sampling error.

These are the American cities adding (and losing) the most jobs.

Cities Adding the Most Jobs

10. Port St. Lucie, Fla.
> Jobs pct. change: 4.4%
> Total non-farm jobs: 129,300
> Total workforce: 194,257
> Unemployment rate: 8.1%

Port St. Lucie saw a large increase in jobs the last few years. The unemployment rate in Port St. Lucie was 8.1% in October of this year, above the national rate but considerably better than its October 2009 rate of more than 13%. Wages, on the other hand, were relatively low last year. The annual median wage in 2012 was lower than in most metro areas, at just $29,050. After declining significantly during the recession, Port St. Lucie’s trade, transportation, and utilities sector has grown steadily, including 7.1% growth in the 12 months ending in October of this year.

9. Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark.-Mo.
> Jobs pct. change: 4.5%
> Total non-farm jobs: 224,200
> Total workforce: 240,112
> Unemployment rate: 5.1%

Since 2007, the unemployment rate in the Fayetteville metro area has mostly stayed below 7%. This past October, just 5.1% of the workforce was unemployed, among the better unemployment rates in the nation. Employment in the business and professional sector grew faster than any other, with the number of jobs increasing by 7.1% between October 2012 and October of this year. At the beginning of 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, about one-fourth of the jobs in the Fayetteville area were provided by Wal-Mart Stores, the University of Arkansas, and Tyson Foods.

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8. Winchester, Va.-W.Va.
> Jobs pct. change: 4.5%
> Total non-farm jobs: 60,500
> Total workforce: 69,359
> Unemployment rate: 5.0%

Winchester’s labor force has been rising since October 2009, when it reached a low of just under 64,000 workers. As of this October, the labor force totaled nearly 70,000 workers. Compared with the year before, it had improved by 1,648, or 2.4%, one of the largest increases out of all metro areas. As of October, Winchester’s unemployment rate was just 5% compared to a national rate of 7.3%. According to Winchester’s Office of Economic Redevelopment, leading employers in the region include Winchester Medical Center, Lear Corporation, and Rubbermaid Commercial Products — which is headquartered in the area.

7. Odessa, Texas
> Jobs pct. change: 4.6%
> Total non-farm jobs: 76,700
> Total workforce: 87,823
> Unemployment rate: 3.6%

The number of jobs in Odessa increased by more than 3% in October from a year ago, one of the largest increases among metro areas. Like many places in Texas, Odessa has profited from an improved energy industry in recent years. According to Kohli, the continued boom in energy exploration may explain the recent spike in job growth. The mining, logging, and construction sector has grown by 11.4% over the 12 months ending in October, and accounted for more than 20,000 of Odessa’s 76,700 non-farm jobs.

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6. Jonesboro, Ark.
> Jobs pct. change: 4.6%
> Total non-farm jobs: 54,100
> Total workforce: 60,293
> Unemployment rate: 6.4%

The total number of non-farm jobs in Jonesboro rose by 4.6% from October 2012 to October 2013. Paychecks for area workers are generally low, with a median annual wage of just $26,340 in 2012, among the lowest in the nation. However, unemployment remained relatively low during the recession, only briefly exceeding 8%. The area is home to a number of manufacturers producing consumer staples, including cereal company Post Foods, snack maker Frito-Lay, as well as Unilever and Nestle.

5. Yuba City, Calif.
> Jobs pct. change: 4.8%
> Total non-farm jobs: 39,100
> Total workforce: 70,446
> Unemployment rate: 12.4%

Yuba City is located in the fertile Sacramento Valley and is highly reliant on agriculture. There are more than 61,000 employed people in the region, but less than 40,000 non-farm jobs. Despite non-farm job growth of nearly 5% in the last year and a 17.4% decline in the jobless population, unemployment remains a problem in Yuba City. The region’s unemployment rate as of October was 12.4%, much higher than the national rate of 7.3%. Only three other metro areas had a higher unemployment rate than Yuba City.

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4. Midland, Texas
> Jobs pct. change: 5.2%
> Total non-farm jobs: 87,500
> Total workforce: 95,977
> Unemployment rate: 3.1%

Midland’s labor force grew by nearly 4% between October 2012 and October 2013, the fifth-largest improvement out of any metro area. The region’s unemployment rate of 3.1% this October was among the lowest in the nation. Like Odessa, Midland’s growth may be explained in part by the booming oil and gas industry. According to the Midland Development Corporation, oil and gas companies generated nearly 3,500 jobs in the region over the last 12 months. Compared with other metro areas adding the most jobs, wages in Midland are high. In 2012, the annual median wage was nearly $35,000, in the top third of all metro areas.

3. Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Fla.
> Jobs pct. change: 6.0%
> Total non-farm jobs: 82,500
> Total workforce: 101,042
> Unemployment rate: 4.4%

Florida is home to the three metro areas with the highest job growth in the U.S., including the Crestview area, where the number of non-farm jobs has risen 6% between October of 2012 and October of 2013. Additionally, the unemployment rate in the area has fallen 1.3 percentage points in the most recent 12 months, and stood at just 4.4% as of October. None of this job growth has come from the public sector, as the number government jobs has been flat over the last year. Many major area employers include aerospace and defense companies, and according to the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, Florida, the area also offers an industrial air park for private companies to use as well as tax credits to recruit aerospace employers.

2. Sebastian-Vero Beach, Fla.
> Jobs pct. change: 6.7%
> Total non-farm jobs: 47,700
> Total workforce: 65,024
> Unemployment rate: 8.0%

The housing crisis affected Florida more than most states, and the Sebastien-Vero Beach area’s housing recovery has been slow. The unemployment rate in the area was more than 14% as of October 2009. Three years later, in October 2012, the region still had an unemployment rate of 10.3%, compared to a national rate of 7.9%. Over the next 12 months, however, things began to pick up in the area’s job market. The region’s labor force grew at one of the fastest rates in the country, and the economy added 3,000 jobs, a 6.7% increase. The unemployment rate fell by 2.3 percentage points to 8%, the fourth-largest decline of any metro area.

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1. Naples-Marco Island, Fla.
> Jobs pct. change: 7.6%
> Total non-farm jobs: 124,700
> Total workforce: 155,261
> Unemployment rate: 6.4%

As of October, no metro area matched Naples for non-farm job growth over the preceding 12 months. The metro area also added almost 5,800 workers, a 3.9% increase from the previous October. As a result, Naples’ unemployment rate dropped from 8.5% in October 2012 to 6.4% in October 2013. By comparison, non-farm payrolls nationwide rose less than 2% over that time, while the U.S. unemployment rate trickled down from 7.9% to 7.3%. One major source for job growth was the leisure and hospitality industry, where the number of jobs increased by 6.7% from last year. Also, job growth in the professional and business services sector was up 10.4%
during the same period.

Cities Losing the Most Jobs

10. Rocky Mount, N.C.
> Jobs pct. change: -1.9%
> Total non-farm jobs: 56,700
> Total workforce: 68,340
> Unemployment rate: 10.9%

While the number of non-farm jobs generally increased across the nation between October 2012 and October 2013, in Rocky Mount it declined by nearly 2%. The area’s workforce, which grew steadily between late 2007 and 2010, shrank by 4.5% in the 12 months through October of this year compared to the year before. In a UNC report on the region’s competitiveness, W.B. Bullock, a Rocky Mount councilman, noted that city previously offered $100,000 in incentives to companies that can generate a certain amount of jobs. Local business leaders have noted that manufacturing is critical to the region’s economy. Unfortunately, the sector has been declining steadily for years. Of the 56,700 non-farm jobs, nearly 10,0000 were in manufacturing in October, well above the national share of jobs in the sector.

9. Peoria, Ill.
> Jobs pct. change: -2.2%
> Total non-farm jobs: 183,700
> Total workforce: 195,839
> Unemployment rate: 8.7%

There were 183,700 non-farm jobs in Peoria in October, 4,100 less than the year before. The local manufacturing sector’s output plummeted during the recession, but recovered somewhat between the start of 2010 and the end of 2012. Manufacturing employment, however, has fallen steadily over the last year. Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar, Inc., headquartered in Peoria, has suffered from lower demand for its products. The region still relies heavily on the sector, which accounted for more than 27,000 jobs in the metro area as of October, or approximately 15% of the region’s total non-farm employment. Nationally, manufacturing employment accounted for 8.7% of all jobs in October. While unemployment in the majority of U.S. metro areas has declined, the unemployment rate in Peoria has increased to 8.7% in October 2013, one percentage point higher than the year before.

8. Longview, Wash.
> Jobs pct. change: -2.2%
> Total non-farm jobs: 35,800
> Total workforce: 40,805
> Unemployment rate: 9.0%

Longview’s workforce shrank by nearly 5% to less 41,000 residents between October 2012 and October 2013. This was the lowest level in over a decade. Longview’s job market is shrinking, but wages are still reasonably strong. The annual median wage in the region was roughly in line with the national median of $35,740 last year. Wood product giant Weyerhaeuser recently purchased Longview Timber for $2.7 billion. The acquisition may raise land value and stimulate the region’s economy, according to an Associated Press report.

7. Yuma, Ariz.
> Jobs pct. change: -2.3%
> Total non-farm jobs: 50,000
> Total workforce: 90,990
> Unemployment rate: 31.9%

Situated on the U.S.- Mexico border, Yuma had, by far, the highest unemployment rate of any metro area in the country this past October, at nearly 32%. Unlike most metro areas and the nation as a whole, Yuma’s unemployment rate has risen every year since 2007. Last year, it rose by 2.3 percentage points, the largest increase out of all metro areas. One factor influencing the high rate could be the high levels of immigration in that part of Arizona. Since Yuma relies heavily on the seasonal farming, which may drive the unemployment rate higher at certain times of the year. In February the unemployment rate was a relatively-low 25.6%. In the last few months, employment in most of the region’s major sectors has shrunk. Government sector payrolls have suffered in particular, according to Moody’s, in part because of military budget cuts.

6. Carson City, Nev.
> Jobs pct. change: -2.5%
> Total non-farm jobs: 27,400
> Total workforce: 26,653
> Unemployment rate: 9.6%

Roughly 700 non-farm jobs, or about 2.5%, were lost in the 12 months through October 2013. However, compared with many other metro areas with poor job markets, wages in Carson City were fairly high last year, at $37,460 per year, compared to the national median of $34,750. Government employment in Carson City plummeted in 2011 and has made shaky progress since then. As of this October, government employment was down by 2.1% compared to a year earlier. And if a new bill that aims to implement a 2% tax on Nevada businesses’ revenue is passed, some argue the private sector may find it difficult to increase hiring in the future.

5. Panama City-Lynn Haven-Panama City Beach, Fla.
> Jobs pct. change: -3.0%
> Total non-farm jobs: 70,700
> Total workforce: 85,992
> Unemployment rate: 6.0%

Unfortunately, the Panama City metro area hasn’t improved much since January, 2010 the worst month in the past six years. That month, there were just under 70,000 jobs in the region. At last count, there were 70,700 jobs. This October, the region’s labor force had shrunk by more than 5% from the year before — the third largest labor force decline nationwide. Because many residents left the area or stopped looking for work, the number of people considered unemployed declined by more than 25%, the largest decline out of all metro areas. The area’s annual median wage of $27,600 in 2012 remained one of the lowest in the nation.

4. Ocean City, N.J.
> Jobs pct. change: -3.2%
> Total non-farm jobs: 38,800
> Total workforce: 53,525
> Unemployment rate: 11.1%

The unemployment rate in Ocean City was 11.1% in October. However, the high unemployment rate may be in part due to the seasonal nature of work in the area. There is a strong leisure and hospitality sector in Ocean City that is subject to seasonal fluctuations. This past July, for example, there were 20,200 people employed in the sector. Three months later, in October, the sector had shrunk to 9,200. Even accounting for seasonality, the Ocean City job market is quite poor. As of October, total non-farm jobs were down 3.2% over the last 12 months. Further, the area’s annual median wage of $30,310 in 2012 was below the national median.

3. Palm Coast, Fla.
> Jobs pct. change: -3.4%
> Total non-farm jobs: 20,000
> Total workforce: 34,424
> Unemployment rate: 9.4%

The unemployment rate in Palm Coast, fell by 1.3 percentage points between October 2012 and October 2013. Still, with a 9.4% unemployment rate, the region continues to have one of the highest jobless rates in the country. The region has had exceptionally high unemployment rates for some time, well above 10% for nearly all of the last five years. In the last year alone, the region lost roughly 700 jobs, or about 3.4%. One of the biggest factors in this decline was the estimated loss of approximately 300 the government sector jobs.

2. Manhattan, Kan.
> Jobs pct. change: -3.5%
> Total non-farm jobs: 57,100
> Total workforce: 62,373
> Unemployment rate: 4.7%

Manhattan, Kansas, has struggled to grow jobs in recent years. Although the Little Apple’s unemployment rate was just 4.7% in October, up slightly from October 2012, the number of jobs in the area has declined by 3.5% in the last year. The public sector, including Kansas State University and Fort Riley, home to the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division, is one of the area’s major employers — and one of its major sources of job losses. Government jobs declined by nearly 10% in the last 12 months. Federal defense spending cuts earlier this year impacted the Fort and its workers.

1. Decatur, Ill.
> Jobs pct. change: -4.3%
> Total non-farm jobs: 50,800
> Total workforce: 51,006
> Unemployment rate: 11.7%

Even as the Decatur area’s labor force shrank, its unemployment was persistently high. There were roughly 50,800 non-farm jobs in the metro area as of October, down from 53,100 one year earlier. Much of this job loss has been in manufacturing, where employment has declined 16% year-over-year through October. Also, agricultural processing giant Archer Daniels Midland has announced plans to move its global headquarters and top executives out of the area. Currently, Illinois legislators are working on a plan to keep the company in state, offering as much as $25 million in long-term tax incentives if the company moves its headquarters to Chicago while adding 500 jobs over five years in Decatur.