Yesterday, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released preliminary March 2010 unemployment rate figures for all Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). The unemployment rate measures the percentage of the local workforce that reports itself as being out of work, information that the government collects by surveying households. In March, an estimated 551,700 people in the Chicago metro area were unemployed, for a preliminary unemployment rate of 11.3% (not seasonally adjusted). This was a decrease from 11.4% in February 2010, but still above the national rate of 10.2%. Nonfarm employment, a separate economic trend measure based on data collected directly from employers about the number of jobs they are responsible for, suggests the Chicago metro area added 20,200 jobs between February and March, bringing total nonfarm employment up to 4.2 million.
The following chart compares unemployment rates in the 15 largest metro areas and the US overall; 8 of the largest metros (including Chicago) experienced decreases in unemployment rates before seasonal adjustment from February to March 2010.
Among 49 large MSAs with a population in 2000 of at least 1 million, 22 (including Chicago) exhibited unemployment rates of 10.0% or higher in March. The lowest unemployment rate was in New Orleans (6.0%), followed by Oklahoma City (6.1%); the highest rates were in Detroit, MI (15.5%) and Riverside, CA (15.0%). The following map compares preliminary March 2010 unemployment rates in all metro areas compared to the US average:
The full press release and data for all MSAs can be found on the BLS websit (PDF).