Where Unemployment Is Lowest (and Highest) in the U.S.

For the second year in a row, Midland, situated in the Texas oil patch, kicked off the year with the lowest jobless rate in the country.

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Midland, Texas had a 2.6% jobless rate in January, beating out Lincoln, Neb. at 2.8% and Ames, Iowa at 2.9%. Midland has an estimated 100,000-strong workforce, 97,300 of whom are in the private sector. The oil and gas boom helped Texas cities capture four of the top ten spots for the lowest jobless rates in the country (see bottom for rankings).

The national unemployment rate in January was 6.1%, not seasonally adjusted, down from 7% a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) of Yuma, Ariz., and El Centro, Calif., continued to suffer the nation’s highest joblessness, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Unemployment in El Centro and Yuma was 21.3% and 19.8%, respectively.

Which area saw the most precipitous drop in unemployment? Decatur, Ill., had the largest over-the-year jobless rate decrease in January, a full 3.4 percentage points, though it’s still above the national average at 6.5%. Meanwhile, 19 other areas had rate decreases of at least two percentage points.

And which areas saw the biggest spike in jobless rates? Alexandria, La., had the largest over-the-year jobless rate increase (+1.4 percentage points) to 7.4%.

Of the 51 metropolitan areas with a 2010 Census population of one million or more, Salt Lake City, Utah, had the lowest unemployment rate in January at 3.6%, followed by Austin-Round Rock, Texas, and Oklahoma City, Okla., 3.7% each. Memphis, Tenn.-Miss.-Ark., had the highest jobless rate among the large areas, 7.9%.

More than half of the country’s MSAs, a total of 198, had January unemployment rates below the U.S. figure of 6.1%, 177 areas had rates above it, and 12 areas had rates equal to that of the nation (for more, see here: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/metro.htm).

When it comes to trends, nationwide, jobless rates were lower in January versus the same month a year prior in the majority of MSAs, 339, of the 387 metro areas. But they were higher in 38 areas, while 10 areas stayed flat, reports the BLS. Just three areas had jobless rates of less than 3%, while 17 areas had rates of at least 10%.


Midland, Texas 2.6%

Lincoln, Nebraska 2.8%

Ames, Iowa 2.9%

Iowa City, Iowa 3.3%

Amarillo, Texas 3.3%

Odessa, Texas 3.3%

Sioux Falls, South Dakota 3.4%

Mankato, Minnesota 3.5%

Omaha, Nebraska 3.5%

Lubbock, Texas 3.5%

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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