It looks like the job market finally got on track at the end of this year. The last jobs report showed the fastest job growth in nearly three years. Of course, that growth isn’t evenly spread — some areas of the country are rebounding fast while others are getting worse.
On Tuesday, the Labor Department released the latest figures for metro areas, giving a better picture of the geography of the labor market’s improvement.
Clearly, Illinois dominates this list, claiming four the top five spots, led by Decatur, whose unemployment rate fell by 4.3 percentage points, to 7.9 percent. An improving economy of course plays into that — the Decatur Herald-Review reports that employment in a range of industries, like healthcare and transportation, has grown lately, and the latest Fed Beige Book shows that the Chicago Fed District has seen a boost in manufacturing and construction.
But it might not all be good news — as that Herald-Review news story points out, people have also been leaving the labor force, which can push the unemployment rate down even when the job market isn’t really improving. And some cities simply have a lot of room for improvement — unemployment in Yuma, Arizona, dropped by 4.2 percentage points, but is still at 23.1 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum, these were the cities whose job markets worsened the most this year.
As in the top chart, one state dominates this list: Louisiana, claiming the eight fastest-worsening unemployment rates among US metro areas. That may in part be because payroll growth has stalled in many industries, but it could also be that people are entering the labor force — an encouraging sign — faster than they can find jobs. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune,local economists think this may be happening — just the opposite of what may be going on in Decatur, where the rate is plummeting.
The unemployment rate is the number of number of people looking for a job divided by the total size of the labor force. This means that the unemployment rate often misses a lot of discouraged people who have stopped looking for work but would love a job if they could find one.
The flipside of the unemployment rate is the employment rate, the ratio of people with jobs to the total size of the labor force. It is rare to hear anything about the employment rate. Instead, a more commonly discussed statistic is the employment-population ratio-the ratio of people with jobs to all people, including children, retirees, homemakers and others who aren’t in the labor force.
The unemployment rate rose sharply in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and has been falling since 2010. Currently it stands at 5.9 percent.