U.S. Metros With the Lowest Unemployment Rates in 2015

At a glance: Lincoln, Nebraska currently has the lowest unemployment rate of any metro area in the U.S., according to the Labor Department’s latest figures. Several other Midwest cities round out the top ten, as shown in the first table below.

The U.S. unemployment rate has improved steadily since hitting a recession high of 10% in 2009. According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s jobless rate fell to 5.6% in December 2014, after adding more than 250,000 jobs that month.

The president touted these numbers last night, in his state-of-the-union speech. “Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis,” Mr. Obama said.

But some cities are putting the national average to shame, with rates as low as 2%. Many of the cities with the lowest jobless rates are located in the Midwest. On the other end of the spectrum, some of the highest unemployment rates are found in California cities and metro areas. See the tables below for details.

20 Metros With the Lowest Unemployment Rates

Here are the 20 metropolitan statistical areas with the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S., as of January 2015. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

U.S. Rank Metropolitan Area Rate
1 Lincoln, NE 2.1%
2 Fargo, ND-MN 2.2%
2 Mankato-North Mankato, MN 2.2%
4 Midland, TX 2.3%
5 Ames, IA 2.5%
5 Bismarck, ND 2.5%
5 Logan, UT-ID 2.5%
8 Iowa City, IA 2.6%
8 Rochester, MN 2.6%
10 Grand Forks, ND-MN 2.7%
10 Sioux Falls, SD 2.7%
12 Odessa, TX 2.8%
13 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 3.0%
13 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 3.0%
13 Provo-Orem, UT 3.0%
16 Billings, MT 3.1%
17 Boulder, CO 3.2%
17 Fort Collins-Loveland, CO 3.2%
17 Idaho Falls, ID 3.2%
17 Salt Lake City, UT 3.2%

Why Lincoln, Nebraska Is #1

The Lincoln, Nebraska metro area has a population of around 314,000 people, and nearly all of them are employed. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s latest figures, Nebraska’s unemployment rate fell to 2.1% in November of last year. It rose to 5% during the Great Recession (at a time when the U.S. jobless rate was peaking at 10%) and has fallen steadily since.

The state as a whole is also doing well. According to John Albin, the state’s acting labor commissioner: “Nebraska’s unemployment rate has not been this low since early 2008.”

Private industries with the most job growth, year over year, include trade, transportation and utilities (up 2,073 from last year); education and health services (up 1,951); and financial activities (up 1,672).

Going into 2015, the Lincoln, Nebraska metro area has the lowest unemployment rate of any metropolitan area in the country.

10 Metro Areas With the Highest Unemployment

Jobs are still in short supply across much of California. Among the ten metro areas with the highest rates of unemployment, California cities dominate the list. The table below shows the U.S. metropolitan areas with the worst unemployment rates, at the start of 2015. As you can see, seven of the ten are located in California.

U.S. Rank Metropolitan Area Rate
361 Stockton, CA 10.7%
364 Fresno, CA 11.2%
365 Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ 11.3%
366 Hanford-Corcoran, CA 11.7%
367 Yuba City, CA 12%
368 Merced, CA 12.3%
368 Ocean City, NJ 12.3%
368 Visalia-Porterville, CA 12.3%
371 El Centro, CA 22.6%
372 Yuma, AZ 23.1%

When viewing these numbers, bear in mind the U.S. jobless rate was 5.6% during the same period. So, for example, the unemployment rate in El Centro, Calif. is more than four times higher than the national average.

The most expensive housing markets in the U.S. are also in California.

But things aren’t all bad in the Golden State. Oakland, Napa, San Francisco and San Jose all had unemployment rates in the low 5% range (at the time of publication), which is better than the national average. California is definitely a mixed bag, where jobs are concerned.