Smaller U.S. Cities Are Beating the National 6.5% Jobless Rate

Smaller U.S. cities have been spared the worst of the pandemic-driven unemployment crisis that’s battered major population centers like New York and Chicago, a new report shows.

A total of 51 U.S. metro areas reported jobless rates of less than 4% in December -- led by Ames, Iowa, at a remarkably low 2.1%, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Wednesday. Ames counts Iowa State University among its largest employers, along with a company that tests wastewater for the Covid-19 virus.

Overall, 265 U.S. metro areas out of 389 showed December jobless numbers that were below the 6.5% national rate. Only 10 of them reported unemployment at or below the level of a year earlier, before the pandemic throttled the U.S. In 114 areas -- including many of America’s biggest cities -- unemployment was above the national rate, while in 10 it was the same.

Smaller U.S. Cities Are Beating the National 6.5% Jobless Rate

Among metropolitan areas with a 2010 Census population of 1 million or more, the Birmingham, Alabama region and Salt Lake City showed the lowest jobless rates at 3.5% each.

In 35 metro areas, at least 50,000 jobs disappeared in December compared with a year earlier. The New York metro area led with more than 1 million -- or 10% -- of its jobs gone compared to 2019. The metro areas of Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco followed with an aggregate job decline of 1.4 million.

Meanwhile, Ogden-Clearfield, Utah led all metros in job gains with an additional 8,100 working compared with December 2019 levels. The unemployment rate in Ogden -- which counts the Internal Revenue Service among its largest employers -- is 3%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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