Jobless Rates Drop in Two-Thirds of Metro Areas

September 29, 2010 - 5:10 PM

job opening, job announcement, Brookstone

In this Sept. 16, 2010 photograph, a Brookstone store offers career opportunities in the downtown shopping district of Santa Monica, Calif. The unemployment rate fell in nearly two-thirds of the nation's 372 largest metro areas last month, the broadest improvement since May. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Washington (AP) - Unemployment fell in nearly two-thirds of the nation's 372 largest metro areas last month, the broadest improvement since May.

The jobless rate dropped in 230 cities in August, the Labor Department said Wednesday. It rose in 95 cities and was flat in 47. That's an improvement from the previous month, when rates fell in only 152 areas.

Nationwide, unemployment ticked up in August to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent the previous month. Businesses added a net total of 67,000 jobs, but about twice as many temporary census jobs ended.

The metro report does not adjust its figures to take into account seasonal trends, such as high unemployment among agricultural workers before fall harvests begin. As a result, the figures can differ from the national trend and can be volatile from month to month.

The biggest monthly declines in unemployment were in cities in Mississippi and Michigan. Cities in Washington state and Louisiana, among others, saw the biggest increases.

The housing slump and rising foreclosures are holding back many cities out West, where unemployment rates are rising more than a year after the recession ended. Some economists forecast that trend will continue, even as other regions experience job growth.

For example, unemployment rose to 14.7 percent last month in Las Vegas, the city with the highest foreclosure rate. That's up from 13 percent in August 2009. Reno's unemployment rose to 13.3 percent from 11.7 percent a year ago and the rate in Carson City, Nevada's capital, rose to 13.1 percent from 11.6 percent.

Jobs are getting scarcer in Modesto, Calif., which has the nation's second-highest foreclosure rate. Its unemployment rate rose to 16.4 percent from 15.3 percent a year earlier.

Steve Cochrane, an economist at Moody's Analytics, said the housing slump is likely to continue holding back consumer spending and hiring in many Western states.

"The West will be the laggard over the coming year," he wrote in an analysis last week.

Southern and Midwestern cities, meanwhile, have seen their jobless rates fall as manufacturing firms have boosted hiring since the beginning of the year.

Elkhart-Goshen, Ind. reported the biggest drop in unemployment among all 372 metro areas in the past year. Its rate fell to 13.4 percent from 16.9 percent a year earlier. The region has seen a recovery among some of its recreational vehicle manufacturers and has gained jobs in electric-vehicle manufacturing.

Twelve areas reported jobless rates higher than 15 percent in August. That's down from 17 in July. The rate topped 10 percent in 124 cities, down only slightly from July's 127.

El Centro, Calif. and Yuma, Ariz. Reported the highest unemployment rates, at 30.4 percent and 30.2 percent respectively. The two areas are adjacent, have large numbers of migrant farm workers and experience extreme heat in the summer.

Bismarck, N.D. reported the lowest jobless rate last month, at 3.1 percent, followed by Fargo, N.D. at 3.7 percent and Lincoln, Neb. with 3.9 percent.