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Metro Area Unemployment Trends

February 2, 2012

Job creation is critical for a sustained economic and housing recovery. It boosts consumer confidence to make large purchases, and it mitigates the factors that cause delinquency and foreclosures. Below you'll find a look at the unemployment trends for February 2012 for 27 large metropolitan areas. Find out which areas had the lowest and highest unemployment rates in February, which states saw decreases in unemployment from last year, and which metro saw the most improvements. For more, see the highlights and full presentation below.


  • While the unemployment rate is not yet back to normal in most areas, improvement is unmistakable. Pockets of trouble remain in California and Florida.
  • From one year ago, 26 of the 27 metro areas studied have job gains. Of the 27 areas, Houston had the biggest percent growth in payrolls in the last year while only Milwaukee saw a decline of about 200 jobs.
  • Among the 27 metro areas reviewed, the Washington, D.C. area had the lowest unemployment rate, below 6 percent in February, while Las Vegas continues to have the highest, at 12.7 percent in February.
  • Looking at changes in the last year, 26 large metro areas reviewed saw improvement in the unemployment rate. Among those reviewed, only the New York metro area saw an increase, or worsening, in the unemployment rate in that time period. By comparison, the unemployment rate in the US decreased by 0.8 percentage points in the year.
  • Much has been made of changes in the size of the US labor force. A growing labor force means more jobs are needed to hold the unemployment rate steady. From one year ago, the US labor force has grown by 1 percent. In that same time period, 21 metro areas reviewed saw a growth in the size of their labor force, while 6 saw a decline.
  • Local unemployment rates are pictured in the graphs below.
  • Note that the map below shows the unemployment rate for the U.S. that is unadjusted for seasonal factors in February (8.7 percent). It was much higher than the adjusted rate that month (8.3 percent). National data for March is currently available and shows a narrower gap: 8.2 percent adjusted unemployment rate and 8.4 percent unadjusted unemployment rate.

Next release: May 2, 2012