Image: Houston
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No job market matches the pace of Houston, which added 48,100 positions since mid-2007, an average of 925 every week.
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updated 9/10/2008 8:34:46 AM ET 2008-09-10T12:34:46

The past year has been a rocky one for the U.S. economy.

The nation has seen 394,000 private-sector jobs slip away since mid-2007, equaling a loss of 7,570 jobs each week. The unemployment rate has shot up a full point during the same span — from 4.7 percent at the halfway point of 2007 to 5.7 percent this year.

But a few sections of the country have managed to dodge this economic carnage. The most prominent exception is Texas, which is home to America's three hottest labor markets, according to a new bizjournals study.

Houston, Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth are 1-2-3 in the latest employment rankings of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas. The three Texas markets have added a total of 107,200 private-sector jobs since mid-2007, while keeping their unemployment rates below 5 percent.

Texas' impressive performance, ironically enough, is partially the result of higher energy costs, the same factor that has bedeviled much of the rest of the nation.

"The state's natural resources and mining industry, helped by higher oil prices, posted an annual employment growth rate of 6.4 percent from June 2007 to June 2008 and ranked first among Texas industries in employment-growth rate," said a midyear report from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University.

Texas also has been able to avoid the mortgage bubble that burst with devastating impact in other high-growth states such as California and Florida. A bizjournals study in March identified Houston as one of the nation's 10 most-affordable housing markets, with Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin close behind in 15th and 22nd place, respectively.

Bizjournals used a nine-part formula to analyze employment trends in the nation’s 100 largest labor markets. The formula was fueled by midyear data complied since 2003 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The 100 markets, taken collectively, contained 69 percent of the nation's 116.2 million private-sector jobs as of June 2008.

The top-rated labor market outside of Texas — fourth in the overall standings — is Raleigh. Its job base has ballooned by 22.1 percent since 2003, dwarfing the national five-year growth rate of 6.3 percent.

Seattle ranks fifth, largely because of its addition of 20,500 private-sector jobs since mid-2007. Only Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth have posted bigger gains during the past year. For employment profiles on these cities and the rest of the 10 hottest job markets, click here.

The recent volatility in the U.S. economy has shuffled the standings dramatically since they were last compiled a year ago. Phoenix, which was No. 1 in bizjournals' 2007 employment rankings, has dropped all the way to 28th place this year. Six of last year's 10 hottest markets have fallen out of the top 10 this year.

Image: Detroit
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Detroit is home of the beleaguered auto industry — and the weakest labor market in America. The metro lost 125,100 jobs since mid-2003, an average of 2,085 per month.
The bottom of the list is considerably more stable, though it does include a few surprises.

Last place belongs once again to Detroit, which has ranked as the coldest job market in America the past two years. The biggest problem remains Detroit's heavy reliance on domestic automakers, resulting in a loss of 30,800 jobs since mid-2007.

"Obviously, the Michigan economy has been dreadful this decade," said a recent report from Michigan Future Inc., a nonprofit group that aims to rejuvenate the state's economy. "An unprecedented seven consecutive years of job losses. At the bottom of the national rankings in both employment and per capita income. This is largely because the engine that still drives the Michigan economy is the troubled domestic auto industry."

The second-coldest labor market has suffered a dramatic decline the past couple of years. Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla., which was fourth-best in bizjournals' 2006 employment rankings, now sits in 99th place, a victim of Florida's real-estate woes. It has lost 11,400 jobs since mid-2007.

Other industrial markets among the coldest job markets include: Providence, Toledo, Lansing, Mich., and Dayton. All but Providence were also in the bottom 10 last year.

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