LISEP today released a comprehensive analysis of the True Rate of Unemployment (TRU) by Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) for 2022, a more in-depth version of its monthly True Rate of Unemployment report. TRU tracks the “functionally unemployed,” defined by LISEP as the jobless, plus those seeking, but unable to find, full-time employment paying above the poverty line after adjusting for inflation.
In this year’s TRU by MSA report, LISEP found that the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville MSA on Florida’s Space Coast had the lowest TRU in the nation for 2022 at 11.1%, dropping 4.3% from 2021. This translates to nearly 90% of the workforce working in living-wage jobs. Contributing to the favorable ranking is one of the fastest growing high-tech sectors in the country, robust construction activity, and a more affordable housing rental market.
Other MSAs ranking in the top ten for lowest functional unemployment include Bakersfield, CA (14%); Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ (15.3%); Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA (15.5%); San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA (16.1%); Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD (16.8%); Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (17.4%); Charleston-North Charleston, SC (17.6%); Raleigh, NC (17.7%); and Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN (17.9%). Nationally, the TRU was 22.9% for the month of February 2023.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the south Texas McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA had the highest percentage of workers unable to find a living-wage job among the most populous 100 MSAs at 46.8%, which is a 3.5% increase over the 2021 rate. While the region has seen growth in the labor force, employment gains have been concentrated in low-paying and less stable sectors, such as leisure and hospitality (11.1% increase), while more stable sectors, such as manufacturing, lost 1.4% of its workforce. This leaves a large portion of the economy reliant on low-paying business clusters, such as food and beverage production and retail.
Similarly, another west Texas region — the El Paso MSA — ranked among the highest for functional unemployment, with the second highest TRU among the most populous 100 MSAs at 31.7%. But this is a significant improvement over the 2021 rate, dropping 6.3%. This improvement can be attributed in part to its large manufacturing hub, which grew at a 4% clip last year.
Other MSAs among the 100 most populous with the highest TRU are Dayton, OH (31.5%); Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA (29.7%); Greensboro-High Point, NC (29.4%); Rochester, NY (28.3%); New Orleans-Metairie, LA (28.1%); Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY (28%); Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL (27.5%); and Madison, WI (27.1%).
“The huge disparity among these regional statistics — where 90 percent of workers are in living wage jobs in one region, and another where nearly half are functionally unemployed — tells a strong, compelling story,” said LISEP Chairman Gene Ludwig. “We are not a single, national economy where a one-size-fits-all economic policy will have uniform, positive results. It is important for policymakers to be aware of these disparities, and take a deeper dive into these data to understand what is working – and perhaps more importantly, what is not – when making decisions that may disproportionately impact one region over another.”