The nation’s employment picture is slowly improving. Comparing September to a year earlier, unemployment rates dropped in more than half (27) of the 49 major metropolitan areas with at least 500,000 jobs, but the number of non-farm jobs increased in less than half (21) of those 49 metros, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment is one of the key drivers of the economy in general and the housing market in particular, so from a ULI perspective, positive employment trends potentially hold out hope for future residential and commercial real estate activity. The jobs market appears to be recovering fastest in the central U.S., from Minneapolis to Austin, TX, and Pittsburgh to Oklahoma City. Below are lists of major metros with the best job growth and unemployment improvement during September:

Top 10 major metro areas for new non-farm jobs between Sept. 2009 and Sept. 2010

1

Washington D.C.

56,100

2

Dallas

28,000

3 Boston

23,300

4

Austin, TX

17,300

5

Phoenix

15,100

6

Baltimore

13,000

7

Cleveland

9,000

8

Oklahoma City

8,200

9

Pittsburgh

7,000

10

Charlotte (tie)

6,700

10

San Jose (tie)

6,700

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Top 10 declines in unemployment rates in major metro areas between Sept. 2009 and Sept. 2010

Rank

Metro

Unemployment rate Sept. 2010

Decline in rate since Sept. 2009

1

Detroit

13.4%

2.4 perc. points

2

Charlotte

10.4%

1.5

3

Boston

7.3%

1.2

4

Minneapolis

6.7%

1.0

5

Memphis

9.5%

0.9

6

Chicago

9.4%

0.9

7

Honolulu

5.3%

0.9

8

Providence

10.7%

0.9

9

Milwaukee

7.7%

0.9

10t

St. Louis

9.5%

0.8

10t

New York City

8.5%

0.8

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.)