The unemployment rate was lower in February than at the same time last year in 344 of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 372 metropolitan statistical areas, according to an April 10 report. In other words, the vast majority of U.S. cities continued to add jobs.
Using the BLS data, CNBC.com ranked the ten U.S. metropolitan areas that showed the greatest job growth between February 2011 and February 2012. Catherine Varner, economist for BLS Current Employment Statistics State and Area Division, offered her insights into what these numbers mean.
Read ahead to see which cities topped our list.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 12 April 2012
Located in Warren County, about 50 miles north of New York’s capital of Albany, Glen Falls grew at a rate of 6.5. percent between February 2011 and February 2012.
The city’s largest employer is Glens Falls Hospital, a 410-bed facility that serves not only Warren County but the neighboring counties of Essex, Hamilton and Washington.
“The largest industry employment changes in Glens Falls were seen in the Leisure and Hospitality sector, which accounted for 47 percent of total nonfarm employment change,” Varner said.
Portsmouth, a seaport whose metropolitan area includes a portion of the neighboring state of Maine, saw jobs grow by 6.6 percent over the year in question.
The largest employer in Portsmouth is the Hospital Corporation of America, according to the city’s 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, employing 1,150 people.
As in Glens Falls, the largest industry employment changes were in the Leisure and Hospitality sector, with a 31 percent boost in total nonfarm employment in that sector.
Columbia is the home of the University of Missouri, Columbia College and Stevens College. With all that higher learning going on, it’s not surprising that the city has earned the nickname “Collegetown, U.S.A.”
Apart from education, the economy of Columbia is based in medicine and in the insurance industry. Its 6.6 percent job growth rate was the same as Portsmouth’s.
The largest employer in Cumberland proper is the Western Maryland Health System, but the Allegheny Ballistic Laboratory and Alliant Techsystems, both manufacturers of military products located across the state line in West Virginia, also fall into its statistical area. The 7.2 percent rate of job growth over the 12 months ending February contributed to the area’s median household income of $93,174, according to the Census Bureau.
Thanks to its rich Cajun culture, Lafayette has a booming tourism industry. It also attracts a lot of business from the 16,000 students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — much of it centered on the many nightclubs found downtown. Thriving manufacturing and information technology businesses were also instrumental in the 8.1 percent rate of job growth.
“Trade, Transportation, and Utilities was the top industry category contributing to the 12-month employment change in Lafayette,” said Varner, accounting for 20 percent of total nonfarm employment change.
Virginia’s Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford metropolitan statistical area is dominated by institutes of higher learning, including Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg and Radford University. The area had an 8.6 percent rate of job growth.
Though Grand Haven’s proximity to Lake Michigan makes it a popular tourist attraction, and Holland’s downtown is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, manufacturing accounted for the biggest net change in employment, according to Varner. Overall, Holland-Grand Haven saw an 8.6 percent hike in jobs.
Columbus, in Indiana’s Bartholomew County south of Bloomington, was named one of America’s “Ten Most Playful Towns” by Nick Jr. Family Magazine and one of “62 Reasons to Love Your Country” by GQ.
GQ singled out the city’s collection of Modernist architecture, calling it “an essential destination for the study of contemporary design and planning.” The city had a 9.7 percent rate of job growth, thanks largely to the manufacturing industry, which had the largest net employment change at 55 percent.
When Odessa was founded in 1881, there wasn’t much to the place besides a railroad water stop and train station. What a difference a little oil makes. The town’s population exploded during the 1920s, and by the time of World War II, Odessa had 10,000 residents.
Though it is known as an oil town, Odessa’s largest employer is the Ector County Independent School District, followed by two medical centers, the city itself, and Wal-Mart, according to the 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
Odessa had a 10 percent rate of job growth. Mining, Logging, and Construction drove its gains, with 35 percent of total nonfarm employment changes.
Ocean City is located in New Jersey’s Cape May County. A sleepy place with a population of only 11,701 peole during the winter, according to the Census Bureau, Ocean City transforms during the summer months as tourists and vacation home owners descend on the city, at which point the population reaches approximately 115,000. Ocean City experienced the largest increase in job growth of any U.S. city at 11.7 percent. The town's small population makes it too small to gauge which sector experienced growth, said Varner.