Unemployment rates fall in majority of U.S. cities

Posted on September 29, 2011

Unemployment rates fell in roughly two-thirds of U.S. cities last month, despite zero job growth nationwide.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that unemployment rates dropped in 237 of the nation’s largest metro areas in August from July. They rose in 103 and stayed the same in 32. That’s an improvement from July, when rates fell in 193 areas and rose in 118.

The Detroit-Warren-Livonia area unemployment rate is at 12.8 percent up from 12.5 percent in July; Flint is at 11.3 percent up from 10.9 percent; and the Ann Arbor metro area remained at 6.6 percent.

The U.S. economy added no net jobs in August, the least amount of hiring in almost a year. The national unemployment rate remained 9.1 percent for the second straight month.

Businesses pulled back on hiring this summer after the government said the economy barely expanded in the first six months of the year.

But some areas with heavy agricultural economies gained jobs because August also coincides with the start of the harvest, when seasonal work picks up. The recovering auto industry also hired in Detroit and Flint, as did other cities in the Midwest.

Metro unemployment data is not adjusted for seasonal changes.

Most of the cities that reported sharp improvement still suffer from steep unemployment rates.

Unemployment dropped the most last month in Yuba City, Calif., a heavily agricultural area in Northern California. The city’s rate fell from 18.6 percent in July to 17 percent last month.

Another big decline was in Modesto, Calif., home of the E. & J. Gallo Winery, the largest winemaker in the world. The rate there dropped from 17.3 percent in July to 16 percent last month.

The unemployment rate in Mansfield, Ohio, fell from 11.4 percent to 10.1 percent, mostly because the city added manufacturing jobs.

El Centro, Calif. and Yuma, Ariz. had the highest unemployment rates among cities, at 32.4 percent and 29.4 percent, respectively. They are adjacent counties with heavy farm economies and large contingents of migrant labor. Yuma’s rate fell while El Centro’s ticked up.

Bismarck, N.D. reported the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, at 3 percent. Lincoln, Neb. had the next lowest rate, at 3.6 percent, followed by Fargo, N.D., at 3.9 percent.