August Unemployment Rates Lower in 311 of 372 Metropolitan Areas

August unemployment rates were lower in 311 of the 372 metropolitan areas than at the same time in 2012, but higher in 47 areas, and unchanged in 14 others, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And many glass businesses are seeing growth.

Twenty-eight metropolitan areas recorded jobless rates of at least ten percent, while 41 others had rates of less than five percent as businesses slowly get back to their feet following the devastating recession that virtually crippled the U.S. economy in recent years. Two hundred and eighty-eight metropolitan areas had over-the-year increases in non-farm payroll employment, while 72 had decreases and 12 saw no change. The national unemployment rate in August was 7.3 percent, not seasonally adjusted, down from 8.2 percent a year earlier.

“We’ve probably hired six or seven people since last year,” says Jodi Ward, who handles the accounting for San Antonio-based Alamo Glass and Mirror. “Things have gotten much better, especially over the last couple of months. It’s all picking back up finally.”

Kathy Worden, the office manager for B-Rite Glass Co. in the Atlanta suburb of College Park, Ga., says business has picked up there as well, although the small, family-owned operation has yet to make any new hires.

“Business has definitely picked up this year,” she says. “We’re seeing a lot of investors buying up old abandoned homes and fixing them up. That’s been good for us.”

Not everybody has been as fortunate, however. Yuma, Ariz., and El Centro, Calif., endured the highest unemployment rates in August at 32.6 percent and 26.3 percent, respectively, while Bismarck, N.D. had the lowest rate at just 2.4 percent. A total of 207 metropolitan areas had August unemployment rates below the national figure of 7.3 percent, while 158 areas had rates above it and seven areas had rates equal to that of the nation.

Highest Unemployment Rates for August 2013 
Yuma, Ariz. 32.6 percent
El Centro, Calif. 26.3 percent

El Centro, Calif., had the largest over-the-year unemployment rate decrease in August (down 5.6 percentage points). Twenty-two other areas had rate declines of at least two percentage points, and an additional 113 areas had declines between 1.0 and 1.9 points. Yuma, Ariz., had the largest over-the-year jobless rate increase (up 2.0 percentage points). No other area had an increase larger than 0.8 percentage point.

Of the 49 metropolitan areas with a Census 2000 population of one million or more, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., recorded the highest unemployment rate in August at 10.4 percent. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis., and Oklahoma City, Okla., had the lowest rates among the large areas with 4.7 percent each. Forty-three of the large areas had over-the-year unemployment rate decreases, five had increases and one saw no change. The largest rate decline occurred in Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (down 2.2 percentage points). No large area had a jobless rate increase greater than 0.3 percentage points.

Meanwhile, construction employment rose by 20,000 in September and the industry’s unemployment rate fell to a six-year low of 8.5 percent, while construction spending increased for the fifth consecutive month in August, according to an analysis of this week’s data by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

“Both of these reports show the industry was doing relatively well before the federal government shutdown forced many firms to hit the pause button,” says Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But the shutdown likely disrupted a wide variety of projects and may have caused private investors and developers to delay decisions about new projects or plant expansions. As a result, future spending and hiring gains may be weaker.”

Construction employment totaled 5,826,000 in September, a gain of 20,000 from the August tally, which was revised up by 8,000 from the Labor Department’s initial estimate. The September figure is 3.4 percent higher than in September 2012, while aggregate weekly hours of all construction employees rose 4.2 percent over the year, indicating that companies are adding to existing workers’ hours in addition to hiring new employees. Employment climbed for the month and year in both residential and nonresidential construction.

The industry’s unemployment rate dropped sharply over the past year, from 11.9 percent in September 2012 to 8.5 percent in September 2013—the lowest September rate since 2007. According to AGC, the steep decline in the number of unemployed former construction workers suggests companies may have trouble finding experienced workers if the volume of projects continues to expand, as it did in August.

“Today’s spending report showed increases in August in residential, private nonresidential and public construction,” Simonson says. “But on a year-over-year basis, public construction has continued its long decline, private nonresidential spending is mixed, and only home- and apartment construction is booming.”

Total construction spending, as reported by the Census Bureau, climbed 0.6 percent in August from an upwardly revised July figure and 7.1 percent from August 2012. Private residential spending led the way with a 1.2 percent increase for the month and a 19 percent jump year-over-year. Private nonresidential spending eked out a 0.1 percent gain in August and a 4.3 percent rise over 12 months. Public spending rose 0.4 percent for the month but shrank 1.8 percent from a year earlier.

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