WASHINGTON – Payrolls will grow in almost all U.S. metropolitan areas this year, but the gains will be slight, according to a forecast from IHS Global Insight, Inc. released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday.
The report found that 88 percent of the country's metropolitan areas, 319 in total, will see employment growth this year, and in 2012 all metro areas will see some job gains.
But in 150 metro areas, employment will increase by less than 1 percent.
By the end of 2011, 156 metropolitan areas will have unemployment rates of 9 percent or higher, while 30 areas will have unemployment rates of 6 percent or below.
The mayors group will meet this week with members of Congress and President Barack Obama to press for more job creation, said its president, Mayor Elizabeth Kautz of Burnsville, Minnesota.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is all about jobs," she told reporters. "We need to make sure we put in place an infrastructure, an economic infrastructure, that helps our people get retrained for jobs of the 21st century."
Two years ago, the mayors pressed the federal government to create an economic stimulus plan that would put the unemployed back to work quickly on capital works and road projects and would help city and state governments sidestep layoffs.
This year, the 230 mayors in the Conference are instead looking to attract private and foreign investment and cut spending in order to drag down unemployment rates.
Currently, the national unemployment rate is 9.4 percent.
As the economy recovers from the recession that officially ended in the summer of 2009, job markets in different states have varied widely. Likewise, employment in some metropolitan areas, which are larger than cities, has bounced back more quickly than in others.
Government data shows that in November, 114 metropolitan areas had jobless rates of at least 10 percent, down from 127 metro areas a year earlier. But 63 metro areas posted rates below 7 percent, down from 74 areas a year before.
Altogether, unemployment rates were higher than a year before in November in nearly half of the 372 areas the government tracks.
Meanwhile, 180 areas reported over-the-year increases in nonfarm payroll employment, 176 said payrolls had decreased, and 16 had no change.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Leslie Adler)