- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 2, 2011

WASHINGTON | Jobs are hard to come by in every U.S. city, but you stand a better chance of getting hired if you live in Washington, Dallas or Boston.

Those three metropolitan areas topped the rest of the nation’s cities in jobs added in 2010.

And all three are home to industries that are poised to hire this year. Information technology companies, biomedical research firms and government contractors are growing industries that are likely to add to their payrolls in the coming months — and the federal government has plenty of jobs listed, too.

The unemployment rate fell in 207 of the 372 largest metro areas, the most to report a decline since September. It rose in 122 areas and was the same in 43, the Labor Department said Wednesday.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate dropped sharply in December to 9.4 percent from 9.8 percent. About half that decline was because more unemployed workers gave up on their job searches. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed when they stop looking for work. The metro data lags behind the national data by several weeks.

The largest generators of net jobs were Washington, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston, Phoenix, Ariz., and Minneapolis-St. Paul. All five metro areas have unemployment rates below the national average.

Boston, Dallas and Washington are among the top ten areas with the most online job ads in January, according to the Conference Board’s help wanted online index.

All three have benefited from growth in the information technology sector, economists said. Companies like Intel, which has a plant in the Boston region, are producing more semiconductors, and computer makers have also boosted output. Corporations are investing more in computer networking and data storage equipment.

That’s helped companies like EMC Corp., which is based in the Boston area and makes data storage network equipment, and Dallas-based chipmaker Texas Instruments.

“Those sectors have bounced back much better” than struggling areas like housing or auto production, said Alan Clayton-Matthews, an economist at Northeastern University.

The Washington metro area, which includes suburbs in Maryland and Northern Virginia, has also benefited from accelerated hiring by the federal government. The area added 57,500 jobs last year, the most of any city. The region’s unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent in December — the lowest unemployment rate among major metro areas.

“The first thing I would point to is the federal government,” said Sara Kline, a regional economist with Moody’s Analytics. Federal employment in the region grew 3.7 percent in 2010, she said, compared to a 1 percent increase nationwide.

That doesn’t include jobs created indirectly by government contractors, which are prominent in Washington’s Virginia suburbs. And Maryland is also a burgeoning source of biotech and medical research jobs, anchored by the government’s National Institutes of Health, a collection of research labs based in Bethesda, Md.

“It is a fairly diverse economy,” Kline said, even with the predominance of government.

While job growth is expected to continue for the region in 2011, the prospect of government budget cuts could limit job growth starting in 2012.

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