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The Metros With Low Unemployment Aren’t All Hiring

July 8, 2013 by Fraser Martens

Over at Slate’s ever-interesting Moneybox blog, the prolific Matthew Yglesias has posted an article advertising Minneapolis as the best metro in America for those seeking employment. Citing just-released BLS unemployment data, Yglesias announces that

[O]f large (i.e., population over one million) American metropolitan areas the one with the lowest unemployment rate is Minneapolis-St. Paul. It has long been the position of this blog that you should move to Minneapolisbased on the high wages and low cost of living, but until recently Oklahoma City had a lower joblessness rate. Now Minneapolis is both a place with high wage jobs and a place with plentiful jobs.

Taking a closer look at the BLS figures linked to in the article, it’s clear that Minneapolis really does have an attractive unemployment rate – just 4.7%, the lowest of the nation’s metros. But while that is the lowest unemployment rate in the country, it doesn’t have an enormous lead on its competition. In fact, there are five other metros with unemployment rates less than a percentage point behind Minneapolis:

EMUN

With the competition for the lowest unemployment rate in America that close, it makes sense to take more than just that one factor into account. What’s really interesting is to compare unemployment today with the job growth of the economy over the last year. After all, while unemployment rates are useful, they can’t tell us how many new jobs there are in an area — and those are far more interesting to potential jobseekers than the already-filled jobs that the employment rate describes. Here’s a comparison of 2012-2013 job growth for each of those six metros, compared to the May 2013 unemployment rates:

VSPIC

Minneapolis still doesn’t look bad, per se. It has a relatively healthy 2% growth rate over the last year, which is ahead of the national rate of 1.6%. And some of its competitors drop out of contention when we look at the data this way; Birmingham’s healthy unemployment rate is rendered moot by its anemic growth of just .4%.

What becomes clear, though, is that even if Minneapolis is a fairly attractive job market, Austin is a far better option. Austin has a relatively strong unemployment rate of 5.4%, but a far higher growth rate (3.9%) than any other MSA in the top six. In fact, it’s added a net total of 34,516 jobs over the last year — almost as many as Minneapolis’s 37,749, despite having a population barely half the size of Minneapolis.

We’ve talked before about how Austin’s economy is one of the nation’s strongest (here, here, and here, for example). Yet again, though, it looks like Austin’s thriving and diverse job market has made it the best choice in America for workers hoping to find a job.

Data shown in this post comes from Analyst, EMSI’s web-based labor market data and analysis tool. To look at jobs by major sector or detailed industry in your region or for more information on EMSI, contact Josh Wright (jwright@economicmodeling.com). Follow EMSI on Twitter @DesktopEcon.

Fraser Martens

Reach out at fmartens@economicmodeling.com

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