Here are the US metro areas with the best and worst job markets – and the Midwest is doing better than you think

The conventional wisdom is that the jobs boom has been better for coastal areas than in Midwestern and farm states.

But a closer look at the data shows that's not the case at all.

Of the 20 metro areas with the tightest job markets — where unemployment rates are roughly half the national average or less — only five are in coastal states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest rate in the country, at just 1.7 percent, was in Ames, Iowa. Four other metros on the list are in Iowa, and three are in Idaho.

On the other hand, eight of the metro areas on the list of the 20 highest jobless rates are in California, where the overall jobless rate is 4.2 percent, a bit higher than the national rate. Yuma, Arizona, has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 22 percent.

The economic strength in the Midwest shows up in low jobless rates in dozens of other metro areas. That strength could be at risk, though, if Trump administration tariffs begin to weigh on exports, especially farm products.

These numbers are for August. Regional data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is released about two weeks after the national numbers.

The latest national data, for September, was released Friday morning. The numbers showed that while job growth slowed last month, the unemployment rate fell another two-tenths of a percentage point to 3.7 percent. That's the lowest level since December 1969. Nonfarm payrolls rose just 134,000, well below estimates of 185,000 and the worst performance since last September, when a labor strike weighed on the numbers.

Job growth was strong through the summer. August's initial jobs count was revised up dramatically, from 201,000 to 270,000, while July's numbers came up as well, from 147,000 to 165,000.

Market by market

While the national employment market continues to improve overall, local job prospects vary widely from one part of the country to another, sometimes within a given state. This is largely because of changes in the size of the labor force over time.

Some parts of the country are seeing much faster labor force growth than others, both from young people entering the workforce and from people moving in from out of state.

A growing labor force means more workers are competing for the same jobs, so faster job growth is needed to keep unemployment low. Generally, a growing labor force and low unemployment rate is a sign that a local economy is healthy and job growth is strong. When the economy is weak, there aren't enough new jobs for an expanding workforce, so the jobless rate goes up.

To get a closer look at how these regional differences are playing out, see how your part of the country is faring. Hover over the map for details on the more than 300 metro areas tracked by the BLS.


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