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Suburbs Drive Unemployment Growth

In the three years since the recession began the number of unemployed in the nation increased by 90 percent, or 6.6 million people. As our latest geographic drill-down shows, much of that growth was driven by more than 3 million additional unemployed people in the suburbs (1.2 million in cities) of the largest metropolitan areas. Levels of unemployment in suburbs remain about twice the level of unemployed in cities. (Note that there is a lag between the top line national number announced today and more geographically specific data).

Below the jump is a map that points out the metro areas where suburban unemployed accounted for more (or sometimes less) of the growth in the unemployed population.

Suburban Share of Unemployment Growth, December 2007- December 2010: Top 99 Metro Areas* 

By and large, the majority (68 percent) of job losses in metro areas between 2007 and 2010 occurred among suburban residents. Only 14 metropolitan areas saw the number of unemployed increase in their primary city or cities more than in their suburbs, out of the 99 metro areas analyzed.

Metro areas that experienced the highest share of suburban unemployment were Poughkeepsie, Youngstown, Bradenton, Atlanta, and Portland, Me., whose suburbs accounted for more than 90 percent of corresponding metropolitan area growth in the unemployed population since December 2007. By December 2010, more than 44 percent of the total unemployed population in the U.S. lived in suburbs of the largest metropolitan areas.

The implications of the growth of unemployed in the suburbs--particularly for strapped state and local governments--are varied (especially in the absence of federal leadership). Subsequently, how these governments choose to react, or not react, to an increasingly disconnected labor pool will differ; from extending bus lines and halting rate hikes in Cleveland (after several years of cuts), to outreach around SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program) in the District. Connecting people to jobs is, of course, crucial for this recovery, but it will go hand in hand with connecting them to social services in the interim.