The Labor Department’s report offers a brighter picture compared with the previous two months, when the jobless rate rose in most areas, and the figures add to evidence that the job market is improving. Brian Hannon is an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The labor force and the unemployment numbers are based on counts of persons based on their place of residence. And then there’s a separate set of data in measures of employment, and they’re essentially counts of jobs based on where those jobs are located. You’re getting sort of two measures here in this report—the household survey data, and then there’s an establishment set of employment data. The unemployment rates are based purely on the place of residence.”
Twenty-nine areas posted jobless rates of 15 percent or higher, though that’s down from 35 in January. The metro employment numbers aren’t seasonally adjusted and can be volatile.
“(The) seasonal adjustment process is designed to take into account things that we know happen at the same time every year. So for instance, at the start of the summer, you’ll see unemployment rise as folks leave school and enter the labor force. And that allows you to get a better sense of the long-term trend. This particular month, rates were higher in 347 of the 372 metro areas, relative to the prior year. I think that’s down a little bit from the January report.”
Unemployment fell in 189 metro areas in February. That compares with only three in January, though the report that month was distorted by an annual data revision.