Unemployment rates rose in more than two-thirds of the nation's largest metro areas in November, a sharp reversal from the previous month and the most since June.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that unemployment rates rose in 258 of the 372 largest cities, including the Buffalo Niagara region, where the jobless rate inched up to 8 percent from 7.9 percent in October. Unemployment rates fell in 88 metro areas and remained the same in 26. That's worse than October, when rates fell in 200 areas and rose in 108.
The economy is strengthening, but employers have been reluctant to create jobs. Economists predict that hiring will pick up in 2011, but not enough to significantly lower the unemployment rate.
Metro areas in states with the weakest housing markets, such as California, Nevada, Florida and Georgia, are seeing continuing increases in unemployment. Las Vegas, Atlanta, San Francisco and Miami all saw their rates rise. Construction jobs haven't returned. Real estate agents and mortgage broker positions have also disappeared.
"The areas really affected by the housing bust have yet to come back," said Jim Diffley, a regional economist at IHS Global Insight.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate rose in November to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent the previous month, according to a report last month from the Labor Department. The metro data lags behind the national data by several weeks.
Unlike the national report, the metro figures aren't seasonally adjusted to account for trends such as the hiring of agricultural workers for fall harvests or the layoff of temporary retail employees after the winter holidays. That makes the data more volatile from month to month.
Bismarck, N.D. recorded the lowest unemployment rate, with 3.3 percent, followed by Fargo, N.D., and Lincoln, Neb. at 3.5 percent each.
El Centro, Calif., had the highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 29.1 percent, followed by Yuma, Ariz., with 24.8 percent. The two areas are adjacent and have large numbers of migrant farmworkers.