Modest Job Recovery Continues in Largest Markets

While annual job losses remain steep, most major markets are continuing to see employment recover.

Despite a resurgence in COVID-19 infection rates and a tightening of restrictions around the country, most metropolitan areas have reported slightly higher employment levels in October compared to last month. However, October’s job report still showed annual losses for almost all core 150 markets tracked by RealPage.

The list of markets with the steepest annual job losses was virtually unchanged from last month, with all markets returning to the list and only two changing places. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), New York still has the steepest job declines, with more than 744,000 jobs lost for the year-ending October 2020. It has taken New York six months to regain almost half of the 1.4 million jobs lost in April and, at that pace, it will be more than a year before full recovery.

Los Angeles lost 380,000 positions in the year-ending October, but that was a notable improvement from the September showing. Chicago and Boston reported annual job losses of around 260,000 to 340,000 positions as of October. Losses in these markets were only a slight improvement over September figures.

Philadelphia, Detroit, and Washington, DC each had employment losses of about 174,000 to 200,000 jobs in the year-ending October. Each of these markets saw notable improvement over September’s annual losses.

Houston and Anaheim were the two markets that changed places in this month’s job loss list. Houston lost 151,600 jobs in the year-ending October, only a slight upgrade over September losses. Anaheim’s annual decline was 140,900 positions, a much bigger improvement over the annual losses seen last month.

Minneapolis-St. Paul rounded out the list of worst job loss markets, with a loss of 127,500 for the year-ending October.

Month-over-month comparisons of labor data from the BLS when it is not seasonally adjusted, even when annualized, can warrant a little caution. However, the trends are undeniable. Together, the 10 markets with the steepest job losses saw an improvement of about 220,000 positions from September to October and about 2.4 million jobs from April’s initial losses. While all the steepest loss markets have improved, the pace varies by market.

Of the 10 hardest-hit markets, Philadelphia and Detroit (and to a lesser degree Minneapolis-St. Paul) have had the fastest pace of recovery on a percentage basis, with each gaining back at least half of their initial April job losses. Detroit has recovered 62% of the jobs it lost in April, while Philadelphia has gained back about 57%. The remainder of markets on the list have gained back about 44% of their lost jobs.

A total of 111 of the core 150 markets had fewer jobs lost in the year-ending October than in September, one more than last month. Stricter economic and business controls going into the winter months could reverse that trend, however.

A few markets logged steeper job losses in October. Providence-Warwick, RI saw increased annual job losses from September of 9,200 jobs, while Manchester/Nashua/Concord, NH, New Haven-Milford, CT, and Worcester, MA lost about 6,000 additional jobs in October compared to last month. Other markets with additional job losses include Omaha, NE, Jacksonville, FL, and Newark, NJ.

Despite increased job losses in a few markets, 19 markets lost at least 100,000 jobs in October’s report compared to 20 markets with similar losses last month, and 49 markets in April. Twenty-two markets lost between 50,000 and 99,999 jobs compared to last month’s 24. Combined, the jobs lost in the 10 worst markets accounted for 28.2% of the total losses for the U.S. The next 10 markets for job losses accounted for another 11.7% of total job losses.

As with the list of markets with the steepest job losses, the list of steepest percentage decline in employment has many returning entries. According to the BLS, New York, Las Vegas, and Oakland were the returning major markets on the list for steepest job loss as a percentage of total employment for October 2020. This month, they are joined by West Palm Beach and Indianapolis.

The range or spread of percentage job losses continues to progress each month with an improvement of about 60 to 90 basis points (bps) from the lowest to highest on this month’s list. Last month’s list had percentage losses ranging from 10.4% to 16.3%, while the markets on October’s list range from 9.8% to 15.4%.

Hawaii’s Urban Honolulu market again leads this month’s list with a 15.4% decrease in employment from last year, 90 bps better than last month, as the state’s strict quarantine restrictions and remote accessibility continue to hinder the local economy.


Lincoln, NE and Boise City, ID returned to flat or slightly positive job growth in October, while several smaller markets experienced annual loss rates of less than 2%. The largest markets with milder job losses include Chattanooga (-0.8%), Dallas (-2.0%), Oklahoma City (-2.1%), and Phoenix (-2.4%).