WASHINGTON – Unemployment rates fell in about three-quarters of large U.S. cities in September, a sign that the nation's modest job gains that month occurred across most of the country.
The Labor Department said Wednesday that unemployment rates fell in 280 large metro areas from August to September. They rose in 61 and were unchanged in 31. That's the largest number of cities to see a decline since April.
Nationwide, employers added a net 103,000 jobs in September. And the unemployment rate was 9.1 percent for the third straight month. The job gains were only about enough to keep up with population growth. The economy needs to generate at least twice September's total to reduce the unemployment rate.
Unlike national and state data, metro unemployment figures aren't adjusted for seasonal changes. Many of the areas with the sharpest drops in unemployment were cities with large universities. They likely added jobs at the start of the academic year.
State College, Penn., home to Penn State University, reported the biggest drop in unemployment in September. Its rate fell to 5.1 percent from 6.5 percent in August. Grand Forks, N.D., site of the University of North Dakota, reported the next-largest drop, to 4.1 percent from 5 percent.
Meanwhile, many of the cities with the biggest increases in unemployment were coastal cities, where many summer employees likely lost jobs.
Unemployment in Ocean City, N.J., rose to 9 percent in September, from 7.9 percent the previous month. The second-biggest rise was in Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss., on the Gulf of Mexico, where the rate jumped to 9.8 percent from 8.7 percent.
Other cities with big increases included Myrtle Beach, S.C., a popular beach resort, and Barnstable Town, Mass., part of the Cape Cod area.
Bismarck, N.D., registered the lowest unemployment rate at 2.5 percent. The next-lowest were Fargo, N.D., at 3.3 percent and Lincoln, Neb., at 3.5 percent.
Among cities with 1 million or more residents, Oklahoma City had the lowest rate, 5.5 percent. Oklahoma has benefited from its oil and gas production and high prices for grains and other agricultural communities.
El Centro, Calif., reported the highest rate, at 29.6 percent, followed by Yuma, Ariz., at 27 percent. They are adjacent counties with heavy farm economies and large contingents of migrant labor.
Las Vegas had the highest unemployment rate among cities with populations of 1 million or more: 13.6 percent.