WASHINGTON — Unemployment rates fell in two-thirds of large U.S. metro areas in July, a sign of widespread improvement in the job market.
The Labor Department said Wednesday that unemployment rates fell in 239 of the nation’s 372 largest cities in July from June. Rates rose in 103 and were unchanged in 30.
The U.S. unemployment rate fell last month to a 4 ½-year low of 7.4 percent. That’s down from 7.6 percent in June. Employers added 162,000 jobs. That’s enough to lower the unemployment rate but below the average monthly gain of 192,000 this year.
Fewer cities are reporting unusually high unemployment rates. Forty-one cities reported a rate above 10 percent last month, down from 67 a year earlier.
At the same time, 34 cities had unemployment rates below 5 percent, nearly double the 18 in July 2012.
Some of the biggest declines were in resort cities, where unemployment likely fell because summer hiring picked up. Unlike the national data, the metro figures aren’t adjusted for such seasonal patterns. That can make the local figures more volatile.
Ocean City, N.J. recorded the biggest drop last month. The rate fell to 8.4 percent from 10 percent.
Bismarck, N.D. had the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.5 percent. Sioux Falls, S.D. had the second lowest at 3 percent, followed by Fargo, N.D., at 3.3 percent. The two states have benefited from an oil and gas drilling boom.
Yuma, Ariz. posted the highest rate at 34.5 percent, followed by El Centro, Calif., 26.1 percent. The two areas are perennially at the top of the list and are home to many migrant farm workers.
In Maine metro areas, the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford area; 6.9 percent in Bangor and 6.8 percent in Lewiston-Auburn.