Pace of Jobs Recovery Continues Slowing in Major Metros

While the U.S. economy continues to add thousands of jobs each month, the pace of annual gains at the metro level appears to be slowing, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The top 10 job gain markets added about 1.84 million jobs for the year-ending April 2022 compared to a total of about 1.89 million jobs in March and 2.78 million jobs in April 2021 (the first month job change turned positive after the pandemic shutdowns).

Despite annual job gains that are exceeding historical norms for each metro, six of the top 10 job gain markets have yet to recover all of the jobs lost in the initial months of the pandemic. Combined, the six metros need about 570,000 more jobs to reach February 2020 levels, with almost half of that in New York alone.

Nine of the markets from last month’s top 10 list returned in April, with a few changing places. New York again led the nation for job gains with 375,400 new jobs, while Los Angeles returned at #2 with 255,400 jobs added. As mentioned, New York is still 265,700 jobs below their pre-pandemic employment level, while Los Angeles is about 124,000 jobs down.

Dallas replaced Chicago at #3, adding 215,400 jobs in the year-ending April, the only other top 10 market to add more than 200,000 jobs in April. Chicago slipped to #4 with an annual gain of 189,900 jobs, falling below 200,000 jobs gained for the first time since December.

Atlanta, Houston, and Boston returned in the #5 through #7 spots, adding 184,100, 169,700, and 132,100 jobs, respectively, for the year. Atlanta and Houston joined Dallas and Orlando as the only top 10 markets to have fully recovered. Houston was the last major Texas market to have regained all of the jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Philadelphia moved up one spot, replacing Washington, DC at #8 as the nation’s capital fell back to #9 in April. Philadelphia’s annual job gain of 108,400 in the year-ending April was just 5,000 jobs more than DC’s 103,400 additional jobs. Orlando overtook Las Vegas to land in the top 10 this month, gaining 103,000 jobs for the year.

Six of the next 10 top 150 markets ranked by April job gains are below their pre-pandemic employment bases, one market less than last month. Of those, Las Vegas and San Diego are very close to regaining their pre-pandemic employment levels, while Anaheim, San Francisco, and Detroit are each about 40,000 jobs short of recovery and Seattle needs less than 18,000 jobs.

A total of 69 of our top 150 markets have regained all of their lost jobs from the pandemic but that leaves 81 more to go. However, 27 of those 81 have less than 5,000 jobs to recover before they reach February 2020 levels.

Comparing annual job gain on a month-over-month basis, 56 of our 150 markets had higher annual job gains in April than in March with another five unchanged compared to 44 last month, despite a general slowing in gains at the metro level. Most of the markets with fewer job gains than last month are in the Northeast (New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia), in the upper Midwest (Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee), and especially on the West Coast (Los Angeles, San Diego, Anaheim, Oakland). These month-over-month comparisons of not seasonally adjusted labor market data from the BLS can sometimes be misleading, but nonetheless give an idea of overall trends.

With the tighter labor market and difficulties in staffing continuing, only 11 markets had annual job gains of 100,000 or more compared to 12 in March and 17 in January. Another 21 markets gained between 50,000 and 99,999 jobs, the same as last month. Akron was the only one of RealPage’s top 150 markets that had an annual job loss from last April.

Annual percentage change in employment continues to be strong despite decreasing job gains, but the top performers have seen slowing job growth as well. Seven of March’s top 10 returned in April with three of those 10 in Texas, compared to two in Florida, and only one in California.

Las Vegas continues to lead the top 150 markets for annual percentage change in jobs , at 10.3%. Orlando remained in the #2 spot with an 8.3% gain, as two of the hardest hit markets during pandemic lockdowns are continuing to regain their footing.

Austin’s tech-boom helped boost employment by 8.1% in April, while Dallas overtook San Francisco to take the #4 spot, growing employment by 8.0%. San Francisco at #5 grew a respectable 7.9% in April, as Nashville joined the top 10 percent growth list at #6 with a 7.0% improvement.

Provo and Atlanta also joined the percent growth leaderboard at #7 and #8, growing their employment bases by 6.9% and 6.7%, respectively. Miami and Midland/Odessa returned from last month to round out the top 10 with 6.6% and 6.5% growth rates, respectively.

Compared to March’s list, the levels of job growth shifted downward, with the difference between #1 and #10 averaging about 20 bps lower than last month. Job growth in the top market fell about 180 bps while the #10 market was 60 bps lower than March’s #10. Additionally, only three of the top 10 in March were below 7% growth compared to four in April.

The weakest markets for percentage growth are primarily in the Deep South and industrial Midwest, with a few Northeast markets in the mix. Major markets with sub-3% growth include Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Virginia Beach, St. Louis, Richmond, VA, Columbus, OH, Cleveland, Greensboro and Minneapolis. In addition to the top 10 job gain markets, strong job growth was seen in San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles, Riverside, Fort Worth, San Jose, New York, Houston and Tampa. Forty-six markets had annual job growth rates above the not seasonally adjusted national average of 4.6% compared to 57 in March.