Economy Watch: Most Metros Enjoying Lower Unemployment Than a Year Ago

Unemployment rates were lower in February than a year earlier in 319 of the 388 U.S. metro areas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
(Click on image for interactive map) Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2018

Nearly concurrent with the national employment report released late last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that unemployment rates were lower in February than a year earlier in 319 of the 388 U.S. metropolitan areas, higher in 48 areas, and unchanged in 21 areas. That is arguably better for commercial real estate absorption than national numbers, since company growth and site selection tends to take place on a local basis.

Twenty-eight areas had jobless rates of less than 3 percent and six areas had rates of at least 10 percent in February. Payroll employment increased over the year in 313 metropolitan areas, decreased in 69 areas and was unchanged in six compared with a year ago, the BLS said.

In February, urban Honolulu had the lowest unemployment rate among metro areas, at 1.8 percent, closely followed by Ames, Iowa, at 1.9 percent. El Centro, Calif., suffered the highest unemployment rate, at 16 percent. All together, 200 metros had February jobless rates below the U.S. rate of 4.4 percent, 173 areas had rates above it, and 15 had rates equal to that of the nation (4.4 percent).

Of the 51 metropolitan areas with a 2010 Census population of 1 million or more, Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn., and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., enjoyed the lowest unemployment rates in February, 2.7 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, N.Y., had the highest jobless rate among the large areas, at 6.4 percent, according to the bureau.