Most High Unemployment Cities Are Still Gaining Jobs

July 26, 2013 by Emsi Burning Glass

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We recently noted that a few of the large metros with the lowest unemployment rates in the country — Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Birmingham — aren’t gaining new jobs at the rate that you’d perhaps expect. But what about metros with the highest unemployment? Are they in the red in terms of net jobs since last year?

Far from it, actually.

The 11 large metros with jobless rates over 8% as of May have shown overall job gains from 2012-2013. Even Memphis, with the highest unemployment rate among big metros at 9.5%, has increased its workforce by an estimated 1%. And beleaguered Charlotte has registered 3% growth since the start of 2012.

Note: EMSI’s jobs data are annual figures. The growth rates in this post include standard employees and self-employed workers.

Just because a region has a bloated unemployment rate doesn’t mean every industry is laying off workers; there are jobs to be had. Memphis, as we discussed last month, is growing in temporary help services (like in many other struggling metros) and not much else. Other areas of the Memphis economy adding workers include general warehousing and storage (up 7% since 2012), home health care (12%), and radio, television, and other electronic stores (27%). Most of these are low-wage industries.

What About Smaller Metros with High Unemployment?

The trend isn’t so rosy for smaller metros with sky-high unemployment. Some are growing their workforces; a few aren’t. Yuma, Ariz., has the highest unemployment rate in the country — a hard-to-fathom 30.8% — and it has contracted by 0.9%. Rocky Mount, N.C., has fared even worse — 1.4% job loss.

Nonetheless, seven of the 10 metros with the highest unemployment have shown net job growth since 2012.

MSA Name2012 Jobs2013 JobsJob Growth/DeclineUnemploymentMerced, CA80,70482,4252.1%13.6%El Centro, CA67,69869,1292.1%22.8%Visalia-Porterville, CA158,920161,5681.7%12.0%Modesto, CA184,912186,1530.7%12.2%Hanford-Corcoran, CA50,45250,7190.5%12.1%Yuba City, CA52,99853,1820.3%13.9%Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, NJ62,39962,4880.1%12.9%Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ143,351142,486-0.6%12.7%Yuma, AZ73,88773,226-0.9%30.8%Rocky Mount, NC64,92064,039-1.4%12.8%Source: QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees & Self-Employed - EMSI 2013.3 Class of Worker BETA; BLS, LAUS

The labor market data shown in this post comes from Analyst, EMSI’s web-based labor market data and analysis tool. For more information on EMSI data, contact Josh Wright ( Follow Wright on Twitter at @ByJoshWright and EMSI @DesktopEcon.