May 7, 2024 - Business

Dallas-Fort Worth has low true unemployment rate

A bar chart showing the U.S. metro areas with the highest and lowest True Rate of Unemployment in 2023. The measure shows the share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage).
Note: Share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage); Data: Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Dallas area was among the major U.S. metros with the lowest rates of true unemployment last year.

Why it matters: Strong labor markets signify a healthy economy.

  • Boom towns like Denver, Nashville and Dallas are seeing very low levels of unemployment — in stark contrast to areas such as El Paso and New Orleans with large numbers of low-wage jobs, according to the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity.

How it works: The institute looked at the true rate of unemployment instead of the official rate of unemployment, which tends to be significantly lower than the true rate.

  • The official unemployment rate excludes people earning only a few dollars a week and people who stopped looking for work for reasons like a lack of jobs or the demands of child care.
  • The true rate of unemployment tracks the percentage of the labor force that doesn't have a full-time job but wants one, has no job, or doesn't earn a living wage.

Zoom in: The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro had a true unemployment rate of almost 20% in 2023. That's significantly better than the Austin (24%), Houston (24%) and San Antonio (27%) metros.

  • The U.S. rate was 23%.

Yes, but: 45% of the Dallas metro's population 16 and older was unable to find full-time work with a living wage, which the Ludwig Institute has "conservatively" pegged at $25,000 annually before taxes.

Zoom out: The Laredo and McAllen areas had the country's highest true unemployment rates last year, close to 50%, per the Ludwig Institute.

  • Bend, Ore., had the lowest true unemployment rate among all of the U.S. metros tracked by the institute.
  • The institute says the Denver area was the country's best region for living-wage jobs.
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