As economic conditions in the country improve, it is not enough to quote national statistics and vague data. Tangible, localized measures often paint a much clearer picture of the recovery across the nation. And one of the best is new jobs growth.
Between November 2010 and October 2011, the biggest cities in the country by population added 443,446 jobs. Unemployment in these 250 cities dropped by 7%, on average, during the period. Of course, some cities are faring much better than others.
Based on the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24/7 Wall St. examined the cities that added and lost the most jobs.
An increase in the total number of new jobs is good news for the economy. It means that the total number of people working is increasing. And if everything else stays the same, the unemployment rate improves. However, if new jobs are added and the total size of the labor force — those employed or looking for work — goes up too, unemployment actually can become worse. However, 24/7 Wall St. found that, in general, the cities that added the most jobs as a percentage of total employed also experienced improved unemployment rate, suggesting a strong relationship between the two.
[See also: Jobs That Died in 2011]
The unemployment rate in the five cities that added the most jobs as a percentage of total employed dropped. Miami's 13.6% unemployment rate last year dropped to 11.2% in October of this year, mirroring a 4.2% increase in new jobs, the fifth biggest increase in the country. But it is not always the case. In Jackson, Mississippi, the addition of nearly 2,500 jobs was not enough to offset the climb in its total labor force of 3,000. The unemployment rate in the city worsened from 9.6% to 9.8%.
While cities that are losing jobs should see an increase in their unemployment rate, the relationship is much less consistent. Unemployment will increase when jobs are lost, provided the labor force decreases or remains the same. However, if the number of jobs lost is less than the decrease in the labor force, the unemployment rate can actually rise.
Of the five cities that lost the most jobs, only two saw an increase in unemployment. Surprisingly, the sharpest drop in unemployment was in Vancouver, Washington, a city that lost the fifth most jobs as percentage of the total number of workers. Vancouver lost more than 1,500 jobs, but its labor force decreased by nearly 6,000, mostly from those looking for work. The actual unemployment rate for the city therefore improved.
These are the Cities Gaining and Losing the Most Jobs:
Cities Gaining the Most Jobs
1. Fort Wayne, Indiana
> Employed pct. increase: 6.36%
> Total employed increase: 7,052
> Workforce: 129,151
> Unemployment rate: 8.7%
In just one year, Fort Wayne has added more than 7,000 jobs, increasing its employed population by some 6.4%. The unemployment rate dropped from 10.7% to 8.7%. Fort Wayne added the 11th most positions in the country, eclipsing the natural job growth of much larger cities like San Antonio, Phoenix and Philadelphia. In fact, the Fort Wayne metro area had the fastest job growth, according to The Fiscal Times. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette explains that "Fort Wayne — which had a 4 percent increase — continues to benefit from the rebirth of auto manufacturing and high levels of defense spending."
2. Pueblo, Colorado
> Employed pct. increase: 5.3%
> Total employed increase: 2,432
> Workforce: 53,951
> Unemployment rate: 10.5%
As of October 2011, the unemployment rate in Pueblo was 10.5%, a full 2.4 percentage points higher than Colorado's rate. Over that time period, the employed population in the city increased by more than 5%. This is a solid improvement from 12 months ago, when 11.7% of the city's workforce was unemployed. In 2010, Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas opened a plant in Pueblo, adding hundreds of new jobs.
3. Springfield, Missouri
> Employed pct. increase: 4.96%
> Total employed increase: 3,610
> Workforce: 82,429
> Unemployment rate: 7.4%
The employed workforce in Springfield, Mo., jumped nearly 5% between November, 2010 and October, 2011. The city has added 3,610 jobs over the course of the past year, and unemployment has dropped to 7.4%, below the state rate of 8.5%. The city of Springfield says its sales tax revenue increased more than 10% from last year. The improvement came in "sectors like restaurants, department stores, and home improvement stores," according to Ozarksfirst.com. This growth points to a healthy, growing economy — the most important component of job growth.
4. Bakersfield, California
> Employed pct. increase: 4.88%
> Total employed increase: 6,613
> Workforce: 156,888
> Unemployment rate: 9.4%
At one point, Bakersfield was one of the worst culprits in the ongoing employment crisis in California, which currently has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country. In January 2010, unemployment for Kern county, in which Bakersfield is located, jumped to an astounding 17.1%. However, since October of last year, unemployment within the city limits of Bakersfield has dropped from a rate of 11% to 9.4%. This is still above the national average but well below the state's rate of 11.7%. According to Kern Economic Development Corp. director Melinda Brown, as quoted by Bakersfield.com, "Kern County has actually been one of the most successful counties in California at growing manufacturing jobs." Brown explained that this was due to the region's healthy oil and food processing industries.
5. Miami, Florida
> Employed pct. increase: 4.28%
> Total employed increase: 7,334
> Workforce: 201,530
> Unemployment rate: 11.2%
In November, 2010, Miami had an unemployment rate of 13.6%, the 36th-highest unemployment rate among the largest 250 cities in the U.S. By October of this year, the rate had dropped to 11.2%. Over the past 12 months, the city has added more than 7,300 jobs, primarily in the retail sector. According to NPR, there are also plans in the works to develop a $3 billion casino in the city. If a success, the proposed casino, which would become the largest in the world, likely would bring in hundreds — if not thousands — of additional jobs.
Cities Losing the Most Jobs
1. Abilene, Texas
> Employed pct. decrease: 5.62%
> Total employed decrease: 3,111
> Workforce: 56,106
> Unemployment rate: 6.9%
Unemployment in Abilene was 6.9% in October, well below the Texas average of 8.4%, as well as the national average of 9%. The city is, however, doing substantially worse than it was 12 months prior. Unemployment is up from 6.7%, and the city has lost 3,111 jobs, the fourth-most loss over that period among the 250 largest cities in the U.S. In May, a cooling tower manufacturing plant owned by Broadwind (BWEN) laid off dozens of employees. In March, 178 local teachers were fired. These small layoffs and a multitude of others like them have brought unemployment in the state closer to the Texas average.
2. Spokane, Washington
> Employed pct. decrease: 3.61%
> Total employed decrease: 3,437
> Workforce: 100,317
> Unemployment rate: 8.6%
Spokane is the third city on our list from Washington. This goes to show that, to a certain extent, statewide problems are affecting these local economies. While unemployment in nearly every state in the country declined over the past six measurable months, Washington state had a much smaller decrease than other states, including neighboring California and Oregon. Spokane lost 3,437 jobs last year — the third biggest loss of the 250 largest cities in the U.S. Spokane's unemployment actually dropped 0.5 percentage points despite the job losses. There have been a series of job losses, including the dismissal of hundreds of census workers, and the firing of 1,000 leisure and hospitality workers in April alone.
3. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
> Employed pct. decrease: 2.43%
> Total employed decrease: 2,435
> Workforce: 106,391
> Unemployment rate: 8.2%
Unemployment in Baton Rouge is up slightly, as the city lost more than 2,400 jobs over the course of the last year. The city has an unemployment rate of 8.2%, higher than Louisiana's rate of 7%. According to the Associated Press, a portion of the losses have been in the goods-providing sector. But the largest portion, roughly 1,000 positions, have been in the service-providing sector. In an otherwise successful year for the state of Louisiana, Baton Rouge was the only major city to lose jobs over the course of the last year.
4. Tacoma, Washington
> Employed pct. decrease: 2.28%
> Total employed decrease: 2,080
> Workforce: 98,486
> Unemployment rate: 9.7%
Tacoma, which is located approximately 30 miles from downtown Seattle, has had its unemployment rate jump slightly from last year. The city lost more than 2,000 jobs between last November and this October. That loss is the ninth-worst in the country and not indicative of the overall declining unemployment in the state. In some parts of Washington, Microsoft (MSFT) and Boeing (BA), two of the largest employers in the state, have been hiring. Tacoma, however, did not benefit from this growth. Even as the holiday season approaches, the city is considering cutting hundreds of positions among police, firefighters and other public servants.
5. Vancouver, Washington
> Employed pct. decrease: 2.21%
> Total employed decrease: 1,643
> Workforce: 79,958
> Unemployment rate: 9.2%
Between November 2010 and October 2011, the Vancouver, Wash., area lost 1,643 jobs, a 2.21% decrease. Surprisingly, despite the substantial loss in jobs, the actual unemployment rate has dropped dramatically. This is due to a major decrease in the size of the labor force, or employable people who are in the area and are looking for jobs.