Metropolitan Area Employment Trends and Policy Implications

By at 29 September, 2022, 4:48 pm


by Raymond J. Keating –

The latest “Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment” report for August from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers assorted bits of information worth pondering from an economy perspective and a policy-making point of view.

Please note that given that this data is not seasonally adjusted, the proper comparisons are to the same time periods in previous years.

So, what are some points?

First, the BLS reported, “In August, nonfarm payroll employment increased over the year in 101 metropolitan areas and was essentially unchanged in 288 areas.” That’s almost 3-to-1 in metropolitan areas not seeing any employment gains over the past year.

Second, however, larger metropolitan areas fared much better. Specifically, among metropolitan areas with a 2010 Census population of 1 million or more, 45 such areas experienced increases in nonfarm employment, while six were “essentially unchanged” in August versus a year earlier.

Third, “nonfarm payroll employment increased over the year in 27 metropolitan divisions and was essentially unchanged in 11 divisions” from August 2021 to August 2022.

Fourth, as for the nation’s 11 large metropolitan areas, which contain all 38 metro divisions, all showed gains over the past year.

Fifth, but as with the nation as a whole and each state, a key indicator to consider is how the latest data compare to pre-pandemic levels.

While improving slightly versus last month, six of these 11 large metropolitan areas had employment levels in August below where they were pre-pandemic.

What are some key takeaways?

Well, suburban and urban areas, on average, seem to have performed better in terms of recovering jobs since the pandemic hit. That would line up with the general decline being seen in rural population. However, no one – urban, suburban, or rural – on average is performing well. Employment levels either remain below pre-pandemic levels or below where they should be with some degree of growth.

In turn, this speaks to the need for elected officialS – from the White House and Congress all the way down to a rural town council – to put aside politics, roll up their sleeves, and get serious about establishing policy climates that attract entrepreneurs, businesses, investors and workers. That’s not about politicians picking winners and losers, by the way, but instead, it’s all about providing the best policy climate – such as low taxes and light regulation – so that businesses of all kinds can flourish.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. His latest book is The Weekly Economist: 52 Quick Reads to Help You Think Like an Economist.


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