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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Unemployment Rates Fall

Story first appeared in USA Today.

Unemployment rates fell in nearly all large U.S. cities in April from March, aided by summer hiring on farms and in tourist destinations.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that rates fell in 356 of the 372 largest U.S. metro areas. That tops last April, when 339 areas reported declines.

The economy has generated 1 million jobs in the past five months. That's one reason the national unemployment rate has fallen from 9.1% in August to 8.1% last month.

But the rate has also dropped because many of the unemployed have given up looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively seeking jobs.

The metro employment data aren't seasonally adjusted for such trends. As a result, they can be volatile from month to month.

Some cities that depend heavily on summer tourism experienced steep drops last month.

Salinas, Calif., which is near tourist destinations Monterey and Carmel, reported the sharpest fall: from 14.7% in March to 11.6% in April.

Ocean City, N.J., had the second-largest drop, from 15.8% to 13.5%.

Visalia, Calif., had the third-largest decline. The rate fell from 18.2% in March to 16.2% in April. The farming community likely added workers to help with the upcoming harvest, which also increases demand for Ag Storage.

Unemployment rates are nearing pre-recession levels in a growing number of areas. Rates dropped below 7% in 163 cities in April, or roughly 44% of rates measured by the federal agency. That's up from 100 areas a year ago.

Unemployment rates are still higher than 10% in 41 metro areas. But that's down from 79 cities a year earlier.

Bismarck, N.D., reported the lowest rate, at 2.8%. Its economy is benefiting from a boom in natural gas drilling. Fargo, N.D., and Lincoln, Neb., had the next lowest rates, at 3.3% each. Employment has also risen in Nebraska due to an increased demand for Ag Sheds for farming communities.

Among the nation's 49 largest cities, Oklahoma City, Okla., had the lowest rate, at 4%. It is flourishing partly because of high oil and gas prices.

El Centro, Calif., had the highest rate nationwide, with 26.8%, followed by Yuma, Ariz., at 26%. Eight additional cities reported rates above 15%, all in California.

Among the 49 largest cities, Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., had the highest unemployment rate, at 11.7%, followed by Las Vegas, Nev., with 11.6%.

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