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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published February 2015 employment data for the nation's metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) on April 8, 2015. BLS said that nonfarm payroll employment increased since February 2014 in 355 metropolitan areas, decreased in 29 areas, and was unchanged in 3 areas. Unemployment rates fell over the year in 366 of the 387 metropolitan areas, BLS said, focusing in its press release on non-seasonally-adjusted employment data for these urban and suburban regions. BLS data is generated by a federal-state cooperative effort, including efforts by California's Employment Development Department (EDD). (We published a blog post concerning EDD's preliminary February 2015 job report for California on March 20.)

Recent California Metro Job Growth Led by Bay Area, Merced, Inland Empire, Fresno. We typically focus our analysis on seasonally-adjusted employment data, such as the BLS seasonally-adjusted data on nonfarm employment listed below for California's metropolitan areas. Between February 2014 and February 2015, the fastest seasonally-adjusted job growth rates in California were reported for the San Jose, Merced, Inland Empire, Fresno, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Salinas MSAs. Orange County and the Sacramento MSA also had year-over-year job growth faster than the state as a whole. The slowest seasonally-adjusted job growth rates were reported for the El Centro and Madera MSAs. Job growth in the San Diego MSA was slightly slower than the state as a whole, while Los Angeles County lagged the statewide seasonally-adjusted job growth rate more noticeably.

Since February 2010, near the beginning of the current economic expansion, the fastest seasonally-adjusted cumulative job growth rate also has been in the San Jose MSA by a significant margin. Job growth in Los Angeles County has lagged the state during this period. Since February 2010, the slowest percentage growth in seasonally-adjusted nonfarm employment has been in the Kings County MSA (Hanford-Corcoran) in the San Joaquin Valley.

San Jose Leads Non-Seasonally-Adjusted Recent Job Growth Among Large U.S. Metros. BLS ranks MSAs by job growth over the past year using non-seasonally-adjusted data. By this measure, the technology-driven San Jose region leads all U.S. metropolitan areas with a population of over 1 million. Among the top 12 large MSAs by this measure, 3 are in California: San Jose (up 5.4%), the Inland Empire (up 4.5%), and San Francisco (up 3.5%). Among all U.S. metros (including small, medium-sized, and large MSAs), San Jose's job growth rate over the past year ranks 16th. (The Midland, Texas MSA ranked first at 8.8% by this measure.)

Varied Rankings for California Metros in Unemployment Data. BLS also releases monthly non-seasonally-adjusted rankings of MSAs' unemployment rates. Among the 51 large MSAs with a population of over 1 million, Austin, Texas has the lowest February 2015 unemployment rate at 3.4%. The San Francisco-Oakland and San Jose MSAs are tied (with Columbus and Denver) for 8th with a 4.5% unemployment rate. San Diego is tied with three other MSAs for 19th on the list at 5.3%. By comparison, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim MSA (including Los Angeles and Orange Counties) is tied with Memphis and Providence for 48th place on this list with a 7.0% unemployment rate, just a bit better than last-place Las Vegas at 7.2%. Despite its recent job gains, the Inland Empire MSA of Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario ranks 46th on this list with a 6.8% unemployment rate. In comparison, California's February 2015 official unemployment rate was 6.7%, while the nation's official (seasonally-adjusted) unemployment rate in February was 5.5%.

Among all of the 387 U.S. metropolitan areas, California has a number of the highest non-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rates reported in February. Among the 20 MSAs with the highest unemployment rates, 13 are in California (El Centro, Merced, Visalia, Yuba City, Hanford-Corcoran, Salinas, Fresno, Madera, Bakersfield, Modesto, Stockton, Santa Cruz-Watsonville, and Redding). With a 20.0% unemployment rate by this measure, the El Centro (Imperial County) MSA ranks last among all of the nation's metropolitan areas. The San Francisco and San Jose MSAs, with their 4.5% unemployment rates, are tied with other MSAs for 65th-best on this list.

As shown in the BLS map below, California now has a few MSAs--mainly in the Bay Area and San Diego--with non-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rates below the comparable nationwide unemployment rate. More California MSAs, however, have unemployment rates above the national level, including the Los Angeles region, the Inland Empire, and various MSAs in the Central Valley and North State.