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A Deeper Look at Unemployment

Last Friday’s jobs report brought some glum news. The unemployment rate remained pretty much the same from April to May of this year and the economy had added fewer jobs than needed to achieve a meaningful recovery anytime soon. However, a less cited jobs report that was released last Wednesday offers an important reminder: the unemployment situation is not the same among the nation’s metropolitan areas, nor is it improving uniformly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found last week that among the nation’s 100 largest metros, which are also its biggest job engines, the unemployment rate was lower than the national rate in 63 places in April. As one will see from this map, higher unemployment was concentrated in places hit hard by the housing bust, like those in Florida and the West, and in the heavyweight manufacturing metros of the Great Lakes and Northeast.

Unemployment had fallen faster than the national average in several places that had or have some of the highest unemployment rates, like Las Vegas, the Great Lakes region, and in parts of Florida. Altogether, unemployment rates fell faster than the national average in 42 of the 100 largest metros between April 2010 and 2011. But in many metropolitan labor markets, high unemployment remains stubbornly persistent. If the national economy is to improve, we’ll need to get these job engines out of neutral (or reverse, in some cases), and into high gear.