One out of three metro areas have recovered jobs lost during the pandemic, but this recession was unprecedented. Here’s why.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published the November jobs report for metropolitan areas last week, providing an updated picture of the economic recovery at the regional level.

As of November, 143 (37%) metro areas had added jobs since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. Here’s the list of metros with a net increase of 10,000 or more jobs:

Many of the usual suspects in terms of the fastest growing large regions–Dallas, Austin, Salt Lake City–are there, but so are a surprising number of smaller regions, such as Provo, Fayetteville, Lakeland, and Savannah, keeping pace with much larger areas according to numeric growth.

Here’s the list of metros with one million or more residents adding jobs, ranked by growth rate:

I was surprised not to see Denver and Nashville on that list, but they are not far off. Nashville needs 2,000 more jobs to reach its pre-pandemic peak. Both regions should be in positive territory when the December report is published.

Here’s a partial list (2%+) of mid-sized metros with net employment gains, ranked by growth rate:

Utah was among the first states to recover, and its metro areas are featured prominently, with three out of the top five in that list. Northwest Arkansas is also doing quite well.

Here’s a look at the other end of the spectrum. The table below includes the list of metros with net job losses of 25,000 or more since March 2020. Many of the usual suspects here, too, along with a few tourism-driven regional economies–Orlando, Las Vegas–that are typically among the fastest growing areas but have yet to rebound fully.

This got me thinking about other economic recoveries. How does the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic compare to the recovery from the Great Recession, or the Dotcom Bubble?

Here’s a chart showing how many (% of total, y-axis) metros posted year-over-year net job gains on a monthly basis. For example, in January 1998 (far left of chart), 97% of metros added jobs from a year earlier, January 1997.

Moving from left to right on the x-axis, you’ll notice that about one-third of metros continued to add jobs after the dot-com bubble burst, and a handful of regions (~3%) even continued to grow during the Great Recession. In the latter case, employment losses were terrible, but a few places managed to post meager gains, and a few more treaded water.

Covid-19 ended that trend, emphatically. For seven of the next twelve months following the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, no metros posted year-over-year job gains on a monthly basis; three other months during that one-year period rounded down to zero if calculated as a percentage of all metros. On a regional basis, it was unprecedented.

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