metroGood news for the major cities – over 90 percent of the nation’s major metropolitan areas experienced unemployment rates in January that were lower than the comparable period in 2011, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Of the 372 metro areas, 345 areas reported lower unemployment rates, 16 recorded higher rates, and the remaining 11 areas experienced no change. An equal number of metro areas (13) registered unemployment rates at above 15 percent and below 5 percent and 270 areas experienced an over the year increase in nonfarm payroll employment, 94 recorded decreasing, and 8 saw no change in employment. The national unemployment rate in January was down 1 percent from a year earlier, dropping from 9.8 to 8.8 percent during the period.

For the month, 86 metro areas recorded unemployment rates of over 10 percent, a decrease of 150 areas under January 2011, while 83 areas saw rates below 7 percent, up 37 areas over a year earlier. The highest unemployment rates in the country in January 2012 were found in El Centro, California, and Yuma, Arizona, recording rates at 26.4 percent and 24.5 percent, respectively. Ten of the remaining areas with unemployment rates reaching above 15 percent were found in California. The lowest unemployment rates were found in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Lincoln, Nebraska, at 3.8 percent each.

Of the 49 metro areas with populations exceeding one million, the highest unemployment rates for the month were found in the Las Vegas-Paradise, Nevada (13.1 percent), and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California (12.4 percent) metropolitan areas. The large areas with the lowest unemployment include Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia (5.7 percent), and Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota-Wisconsin, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (5.9 percent each) areas.

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