By Samuel Weigley, 24/7 Wall St.
The Great Recession has affected nearly every person in the United States. But the recovery has fared better in some parts of the country than others. 24/7 Wall St. looked at the 10 metropolitan areas with the largest employment growth between June 2009, near the peak of the recession, and June 2012.
Of the 10 metros on our list, four are located in Texas. The Lone Star state generally fared better than much of the country during the recession, at least partially because the housing crisis didn’t hit it as hard. Notably, lending standards for mortgages were more strict than in other parts of the country, Alec Friedhoff, a research analyst with the Brookings Institute, told 24/7 Wall St. Texas was also helped by a recent boom in natural gas, creating jobs both directly in the energy sector and indirectly in supporting and related industries such as transportation.
Some of the job growth data should be considered skeptically, especially in smaller metropolitan including some on this list, Milken Institute Senior Economist Armen Bedroussian told 24/7 Wall St. He notes the percentages and the number of people employed or unemployed could fluctuate widely due to the decisions of one company to hire or fire. For instance, in Columbus, Ind., when the area’s largest employer, engine manufacturer Cummins, makes decisions about its employment needs, it affects the entire region.
Throughout the country, certain jobs are growing while others are in decline, especially in the last year. In terms of growth, Friedhoff points to the manufacturing sector making a comeback, helping states such as Michigan. Meanwhile, Bedroussian points to recent growth in the technology sector, which has helped boost employment in Texas cities such as Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.
Jobs in industries like financial services are in decline due to the effects of the European debt crisis, Bedroussian says. Government employment is also down. Due to lower government revenue and austerity measures, the public sector at both the state and local levels has declined and could continue to do so, especially in services such as education, according to both Friedhoff and Bedroussian.
When looking at the 10 metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of growth in people employed, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data for 374 metropolitan areas from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We considered the number and percentage change in the labor force, total employed and unemployed between June 2009 and June 2012, as well as changes on an annual basis during that time, including the past 12 months, to determine if these changes were recent. For the metro areas, we also looked at data from the BLS about the types of jobs people are employed in as of June 2012 and whether the number of employed people has increased or decreased over the past year. We often compared those figures to the state as a whole. It should be noted that for these periods, we looked at the number of employed people, unemployed people, and the labor force, which is the combination of those two groups.
These are the 10 metropolitan areas with the largest increase in employees from June 2009 to June 2012.
1. Odessa, Texas
- Percent increase of employed: 18.4 percent
- Increase in people employed: 12,313 (45th highest)
- June 2009 unemployment rate: 9.6 percent (168th highest)
- June 2012 unemployment rate: 4.9 percent (15th lowest)
The size of the labor force has grown dramatically in Odessa since 2009, when it was comprised of just 71,771 people. Since 2009, the labor force has grown to 83,424, an increase of 16.2 percent, and the largest increase of all metropolitan areas measured. The growth in employment has been spread across a number of industries, many of which have seen double-digit year-over-year growth in the past year, including in financial service, trade, transportation, utilities, and leisure and hospitality. In the past year, the unemployment rate dropped 49 percent, the third largest drop of all metro areas measured.
2. Columbus, Ind.
- Percent increase of employed: 14.5 percent
- Increase in people employed: 5,066 (98th highest)
- June 2009 unemployment rate: 10.7 percent (111th highest)
- June 2012 unemployment rate: 6.3 percent (59th lowest)
The labor force of the Columbus metro area has increased by 9.2 percent from June 2009 to June 2012, the fifth-largest increase of all metropolitan areas. In the last year alone, the labor force has grown 5.9 percent, while the percentage of people employed grew by 7.4 percent, the biggest increase of all but three metro areas. Manufacturing, the largest employment sector in Columbus, has grown measurably in the past year. Columbus is the home of engine manufacturer Cummins, which has been adding jobs over the last year and will continue to do so as the demand for its products remains high. Meanwhile, employment in the leisure and entertainment sectors rose 13.9 percent in the same period.
3. Midland, Texas
- Percent increase of employed: 11.2 percent
- Increase in people employed: 8,265 (69th highest)
- June 2009 unemployment rate: 6.6 percent (36th lowest)
- June 2012 unemployment rate: 4.3 percent (7th lowest)
The unemployment rate in Midland never reached high national numbers. The June 2009 unemployment rate of 6.6 percent was well below the 9.5 percent in the U.S. And the employment situation continued to improve in the years that followed. In June 2012, the Midland metropolitan area had 85,904 people in the labor force, up 14 percent from the 75,284 people in the force back in June 2009 — the largest percent increase of all metropolitan areas except for Odessa. The mining, logging and construction industry, the largest employment sector in Midland with approximately 19,900 employees as of June 2012, added 7.6 percent more jobs from a year earlier. This was actually less than Texas as a whole, where the number of jobs in the industry has grown by 12.6 percent from last year. The major down spot for employment in Midland is the government sector, which has declined 8.2 percent from June 2011 to June 2012.
4. Gainesville, Ga.
- Percent increase of employed: 10.6 percent
- Increase in people employed: 8,437(68th highest)
- June 2009 unemployment rate: 9.8 percent (161st highest)
- June 2012 unemployment rate: 7.5 percent (136th lowest)
Between June 2009 and June 2012, the number of people employed in the Gainesville metropolitan area increased by 10.6 percent, one of only four metropolitan areas out of 374 to see an increase of more than 10 percent in those three years. The labor force as a whole increased by 6.8 percent during this time, the 12th largest increase of all metro areas. While the number of people employed increased by 8,437, the number of people unemployed decreased by 1,611. The number of people in non-farm jobs was roughly 80,500 as of June 2012, according to the BLS. This was an increase of 8.1 percent from the year-ago period.
5. Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, Va.
- Percent increase of employed: 9.9 percent
- Increase in people employed: 7,089 (82nd highest)
- June 2009 unemployment rate: 9.6 percent (168th highest)
- June 2012 unemployment rate: 7.0 percent (95th lowest)
While the labor force didn’t grow as much in Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford as much as it did in other places such as Lafayette or Laredo in the past three years, it did increase by a solid 5.9 percent from June 2011 to June 2012, the 18th highest out of 374 metro areas. In the last year, Volvo has brought 700 employees back to its plant in the metro area following recent surges in North American sales. Blacksburg has also added government jobs at a much faster clip than the state of Virginia as a whole. Government workers comprised 22,800 employees as of June 2012, up 5.6 percent compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, Virginia’s government sector jobs have barely increased at all in the last year.