Apr 13, 2023 - Economy

The cities with the highest — and lowest — unemployment levels

Unemployment rate in large U.S. metro areas, February 2023
Data: BLS; Note: Includes metro areas with more than 1M workers in the civilian labor force; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Las Vegas, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston have the country's highest unemployment rates among metro areas with more than 1 million workers, according to a new Axios analysis of the latest local-level Labor Department data.

  • Miami, Minneapolis and Tampa Bay have among the lowest unemployment rates.

Why it matters: Looking at only the nationwide unemployment rate can hide significant disparities between cities that are thriving and those that are struggling.

By the numbers: Nationally, the unemployment rate was 3.5% as of March — down 0.1 percentage point from the previous month, and down 0.1 percentage point year over year.

  • As of February — the latest month for which city-level data is available — unemployment was below 3% in a handful of U.S. metro areas, including Miami (2.2%), Minneapolis (2.4%) and Tampa (2.5%).
  • But it was above 4% in other cities, including in Las Vegas (5.7%), Chicago (4.4%), Los Angeles (4.3%) and Houston (4.3%).

Zoom in: Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia have all seen a particularly noteworthy drop in unemployment, with rates falling by more than a percentage point in each of those cities between February 2022 and February 2023.

Zoom out: City-level unemployment figures tend to closely track the national trend, with minor deviations driven by the local economic situation.

  • Here's a look at Chicago, for example:
Data: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

The bottom line: While unemployment is down nationally, some cities are struggling with it more than others.

  • The Fed, meanwhile, is keeping a close eye on employment levels as a measure of the economy's overall temperature.

Go deeper: U.S. economy adds 236,000 jobs in March as labor market stays strong

Go deeper