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Hot Stock Minute

The headlines across the country scream “disappointing jobs report”, “weak job creation in January”, you get the idea. And those headlines are not wrong. The economy added 113,000 jobs in the month of January, fewer than the 189,000 Wall Street was expecting. The unemployment rate ticked down 0.1% to 6.6% from December, in line with expectations. But there was some good news in the report as well. The Hot Stock Minute team dove into the report, beyond the screaming headline numbers to find out where the jobs are in this country. And some of the answers are encouraging.

Where the jobs are

For instance, a surprisingly strong 48,000 jobs were added in construction. Surprising in part because of the frigid temperatures carried across the country by the polar vortex in the month of January. That rebound from a decline of 22,000 in December is also surprisingly encouraging because construction recently has suffered one of the highest unemployment rates of any industry at more than 11%. A recent projection from the Labor Department offered more good news for the industry. Construction is one of two industries projected to be the fastest-growing in the next decade thanks to a very long-awaited resurgence in the housing market.

The other industry expected to enjoy the fastest growth in the next ten years is healthcare. As the U.S. population ages, their needs for healthcare services will increase and drive more need for healthcare workers.

The metropolitan areas of the country with the lowest unemployment are Bismarck, North Dakota, Logan, Utah-Idaho and Midland, Texas. All three have unemployment rates of 2.8%. That is not a misprint. They have unemployment rates of 2.8%, well below the new national average of 6.6%.

Based on the regions in question, it would be easy to assume those low employment rates are due to jobs in the energy space, but that’s not the whole story. North Dakota has seen a recent oil boom thanks to drilling in the Bakken formation, but the good fortune in North Dakota reaches far beyond the areas where drilling is concentrated. A recent survey from the Census Department found that North Dakota is seeing the most widespread increase in median income and those gains are not just centered in the areas where the oil drills are, but across the state.

In the Logan, Utah and Idaho metropolitan area, production jobs rank as some of the most common jobs. Those include the jobs, such as machinists and welders, that many assume are dying in this country. Healthcare, construction and energy extraction jobs are also in the top ten in the Logan area. Seemingly in support of the Labor Department’s upbeat outlook for healthcare workers, all three of the lowest unemployment areas have large employers in healthcare.

Where the jobs are… not

On the other side of the coin, the areas with the highest unemployment rates also share similar industries. Yuma, Arizona has far and away the highest unemployment rate of any metropolitan area in country at more than 27%. Next in line is El Centro, California at 22.5% and Merced, California at 14.2%, according to BLS.gov.

Many of the largest employers in Merced, as expected, are in agriculture, according to California’s Employment Development Department. In contrast to Merced, El Centro’s largest employers are much more varied, including several hospital centers, clinics and local, state and federal government offices, along with some food companies. Despite the diversity of industry, El Centro ranks in the top three metro areas when it comes to high unemployment.

While Yuma, Arizona is home to two of the nation’s major military installations, it is also responsible for supplying 80% of the United States’ winter, leafy vegetables according to the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp, illustrating just how much the area’s economy depends on farming.

Good news, bad news for jobs and the economy

So, while the number of jobs created in January was disappointing, there were a few bright spots and some indications as to where jobs may be added in the not-too-distance future.