The U.S. economy added roughly 2.4 million workers over the past year. Over the same period, the unemployment rate fell from 5.0% to 4.9%, close to the lowest it has been in nearly a decade. The 1.7% employment growth nationwide was not uniform, and some areas lost a substantial share of workers.
To determine the cities that lost the most jobs, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most cities added jobs in past 12 months, and most have posted unemployment declines. In 75 metro areas, however, there was a net loss in total employment. The Lafayette, Louisiana metro area had the greatest loss workers, with total employment falling by 4.5% since October 2015.
One major factor driving employment changes across the United States is industrial composition. Continued outsourcing and automation has lowered international demand for American manufacturing, and the downturn in the price of petroleum has hurt the oil and gas sector. Nationwide, the worst performing sectors were manufacturing, information, and mining, logging, and construction.
Cities with economies that heavily depend on these industries tended to have the most job loss. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Martin Kohli, chief regional economist at the BLS, explained that a “large concentration of employment in energy and construction-related industries has definitely been negative in the last few years for communities.” In many cases, a major round of layoffs or plant shutdowns contributed to employment declines in the past year.
People are not likely to move to a city without a job or some other opportunity available. As a result, the distribution of employment growth across the country mirrors today’s domestic migration patterns. Kohli added that residents of the Northeast and Midwest, where a majority of the metro areas are losing workers, have been relocating to major cities in the Sun Belt, which is gaining the most workers.
Employment tends to increase as unemployment declines. In metropolitan areas losing the most workers, employment declines contributed to labor force declines and a rise in unemployment. In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for example, the 14,200 workers lost in Oklahoma City was among the most of any metro area. At the same time, the labor force shrank by a total of 9,000 workers, while area unemployment rate rose from 3.6% to 4.4%.
To identify the cities losing the most workers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed metropolitan statistical areas with the largest employment decline from October 2015 through October 2016. Unemployment rates, the size of the labor force, and employment levels are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and are seasonally adjusted. Industry-specific growth rates for the same period are from the Current Employment Survey (CES), a monthly BLS survey. Educational attainment is from the 2015 American Community Survey (ACS) of the U.S. Census Bureau.
These are the cities losing the most jobs.
5. Mansfield, OH
- Employment change: -2.33%
- No. of jobs Oct. 2015: 50,576
- No. of jobs Oct. 2016: 49,399
- Unemployment rate Oct. 2016: 5.6%
Cities without a talented, educated workforce often rely on one dominant, low-skilled industry and may be more vulnerable to changes in commodity prices and other market shifts than more diversified economies. Nearly one in five workers in Mansfield works in manufacturing, and just 14.4% of adults in the metro area have at least a bachelor’s degree. As demand for American manufacturing continues to decline, Mansfield’s reliance on the industry may have partially caused accelerated employment decline over the past year. The number of employed workers in the city decreased by 2.3% in 2016, more than nearly any other metro area.
4. Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
- Employment change: -2.35%
- No. of jobs Oct. 2015: 180,977
- No. of jobs Oct. 2016: 176,731
- Unemployment rate Oct. 2016: 6.8%
Employment in the Shreveport-Bossier City area decreased by over 4,200 workers in the past year. During the same period, nearly an equal amount of people left the labor force.
Following the statewide trend, the Shreveport area is losing workers in the oil and gas sector. Unlike other areas in Louisiana that are more dependent on the oil and gas industry, however, Shreveport has a more diverse economy, and employment losses in this industry have had a less dramatic effect on the area's overall employment. Still, due to falling oil prices and reduced natural gas production at the Haynesville Shale -- a rock formation rich in natural gas -- the industry's job losses accounted for a sizable share of the area's 2.3% employment decrease.
3. Houma-Thibodaux, LA
- Employment change: -3.74%
- No. of jobs Oct. 2015: 91,738
- No. of jobs Oct. 2016: 88,311
- Unemployment rate Oct. 2016: 6.7%
The number of employed workers in the Houma-Thibodaux area decreased by around 3,400 in the past year. While area employment declined by 3.7%, the number of workers increased by 1.7% nationwide. A large share of the area’s employment decline resulted from a shrinking oil and gas sector. Following a drop in oil prices and the first decrease in North American oil production in years, many oil workers nationwide have lost their jobs. The effects of these industry declines are exaggerated in Houma-Thibodaux, where a large share of residents are employed in the sector.
2. Casper, WY
- Employment change: -3.77%
- No. of jobs Oct. 2015: 40,156
- No. of jobs Oct. 2016: 38,644
- Unemployment rate Oct. 2016: 6.6%
The Casper metro area lost around 1,500 employed workers in the past year. This 3.8% decrease was largely caused by a declining coal mining industry in Wyoming. During the first quarter of 2016, coal production nationwide was the lowest it has been in 35 years, with Wyoming among the regions whose production has declined the most. The Casper metro area is around 100 miles from America’s two largest coal mines. Earlier this year, both of these mines announced large layoffs.
1. Lafayette, LA
- Employment change: -4.46%
- No. of jobs Oct. 2015: 210,224
- No. of jobs Oct. 2016: 200,845
- Unemployment rate Oct. 2016: 7.1%
The Lafayette metro area lost around 9,400 workers in the past year. Employment in the area fell by around 4.5%, even as nationwide employment increased by 1.7%. Following a trend of declining manufacturing employment nationwide, Lafayette’s manufacturing sector shed the most jobs of any industry. The employment declines likely led to a large share of residents giving up looking for work or leaving the area. The overall labor force decreased by nearly 8,500 in the past year. This 3.8% decline in labor force was the largest of any U.S. metro area.