US – 14 Cities Top Pre-recession Level, 6 in Texas

Robust employment in the oil and gas industries helped the Texas cities, although data from the Texas Workforce Commission suggests the job recovery has come from a variety of industries. Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, McAllen, Dallas and Houston all made the list, along with Oklahoma City, another energy town. The other cities on the list of 14 are: Omaha, Neb., Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Calif., Knoxville, Tenn., Washington and Charleston, S.C.

Employers are hiring more readily across the U.S., though only 14 of the nation’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas have more jobs now than they did before the 2008-09 recession.

Six of them are in Texas, according to researchers at the Brookings Institution, who recently analyzed local economic conditions through the end of 2012. All of the 14 appear to have benefited in some way from a stable employment base, anchored by either universities, government agencies or high-tech hubs, helping residents avoid the worst of the job losses suffered by other areas.

In all, Brookings said, 78 metropolitan areas across the U.S. added jobs in the fourth quarter of 2012; nearly three-fourths saw faster job growth at the end of the year than in the third quarter.

Nationally, there were 3 fewer million jobs in February, or 2% less than when employment peaked in January 2008.

“Texas has been a bright spot in the recession. Its housing market wasn’t hit as hard,” said Alec Friedhoff, a senior research analyst at Brookings, a Washington think tank. “The oil-and-gas industry has been a great boon for that part of the country.”

Texas has added jobs every month since January 2010, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. On Friday, the agency reported that Texas has added almost 360,000 nonfarm jobs since February 2012 on a seasonally adjusted basis, with gains in hospitality, government and manufacturing jobs, among others. The unemployment rate in Texas in February was 6.4%, significantly below the 7.7% national average.

Austin added more jobs, percentage-wise, than any other metro area, helped by stable employment at the state government and University of Texas as well as high-tech jobs.

A growing health-care sector and university jobs helped Knoxville. “We did not endure any setbacks during the recession and more broadly in the education sector, we’ve seen growth,” said Matt Murray, associate director of the University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

A few counties around Knoxville have also been helped by growth among automotive suppliers providing parts to a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, he said.

Despite showing strong job growth, a few metro areas could be disproportionately affected in the months ahead by automatic government spending cuts. Washington, and Charleston, in particular, could be hurt by job losses since they’re home to large numbers of military families and contractors. The state of Virginia recently estimated it could lose more than 160,000 jobs as a result of the government and military spending cuts over the next few years.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates fell in February from January’s levels in 22 states, increased in 12 and was unchanged in 16 plus the District of Columbia. Employment increased in 42 states and fell in 8 plus the District of Columbia.

The March payroll report, due out Friday, will show whether hiring maintained the momentum seen in February. The median forecast in a survey compiled by Dow Jones Newswires is for a gain of 200,000 jobs last month, on top of the 236,000 new hires in February. The March unemployment rate is expected to hold at 7.7%.

Source: Finance Yahoo

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