Posted by: Josh Lehner | March 9, 2017

Metro Size and Employment, 2016

Back by popular demand, here is an update on job growth across the country based on metro size. BLS just released the 2016q3 QCEW data on Tuesday for the entire country. This is the detailed data of employment and wages based on unemployment insurance records. It comes with a time lag — again the q3 data was just released — but is much more accurate in nature.

Since our last look 18 months ago the relative patterns of job growth have not changed considerably. What that does mean, however, is that the nation’s largest metropolitan areas continue to outperform the rest of the country and the cumulative gap is getting bigger. Here in Oregon the trends are a bit different and we’ll talk about those tomorrow.

Our first chart shows employment changes since the start of the Great Recession. As the line plummets that represents employment losses during the recession. As the line works its way back up that’s the recovery taking hold and regional economies are adding back all the lost jobs. Once the line reaches 0% again, then all of the lost jobs have been recovered and anything above 0% represents job growth above and beyond levels seen prior to the Great Recession. Two minor notes. First, medium sized metros now appear to be pulling ahead of the small metros in the past year or two, something that wasn’t necessarily true earlier in the recovery and expansion. Second, rural areas have stalled out and continue to see diverging patterns between the oil patch counties and the rest of rural America.

The second graph shows year-over-year job growth since 1980 for the same classifications. What’s interesting here are the differing patterns over time. In much of the 1980s and again during the housing boom, growth rates were similar across these metro sizes and rural areas. However the 1990 recession impacted large metros severely (SoCal in particular), and the technology-led expansion in the late 1990s resulted in very strong growth in the nation’s largest metros. In recent years, the same general pattern as the late 1990s has reappeared. All areas of the country are adding jobs, but the largest metropolitan areas are adding jobs at a faster pace.

As mentioned above, the rural stall is all about the oil producing regions of the country, or at least the rural counties in oil states even as not each county is necessarily a major oil producer. Following the oil crash in late 2014, jobs disappeared and haven’t come back yet overall. The rest of rural America is seeing job growth, although it has slowed from around 1% to around 0.5% over the past year and a half.

For another really interesting look at this data broken down by urban, suburban and rural areas, head over to the recent post by Jed Kolko, Indeed’s chief economist, formerly of Trulia.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look a these trends here in Oregon. We’re similar in some respects but not entirely the same as these national patterns, which overall is a good thing.



  1. […] Source: Metro Size and Employment, 2016 | Oregon Office of Economic Analysis […]

  2. […] we looked at job growth across the U.S. based on metro size, including rural areas. Today we’ll take a similar look at growth here in Oregon. Overall we […]

  3. […] we looked at job growth across the U.S. based on metro size, including rural areas. Today we’ll take a similar look at growth here in Oregon. Overall we know […]

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