WASHINGTON (AP) - Unemployment rates are falling in most metro areas across the country, suggesting that recent nationwide gains in hiring are widespread and not limited to a few healthy regions.
More than three-quarters of the nation's 372 largest metro areas reported lower unemployment rates in February than the previous month, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That's the most to report a decline since September.
And more than 300 areas added jobs in February compared to the previous month. That's a much better showing than January, when most metro areas lost jobs.
The gains "are definitely becoming a lot more broad-based," said Marisa DiNatale, a regional economist at Moody's Analytics.
The metro areas that posted the biggest job gains in February, compared with the previous month, were: Los Angeles-Long Beach, with a gain of 53,600; New York City-Northern New Jersey, a gain of 18,500; and Miami-Fort Lauderdale, up 16,800.
Many big cities also saw steep drops in unemployment from January to February. The rate dropped from 9.3 percent to 8.8 percent in Phoenix; from 7.3 percent to 6.9 percent in the Austin, Texas metro area; and from 11.5 percent to 10.6 percent in Jacksonville, Fla.
More than 300 cities have seen their unemployment rates decline in the past year, the best showing since the recession ended in June 2009.
And 284 metro areas reported job gains in the past year, also the most since the recession ended.
Nationwide, private employers added more than 200,000 jobs in both February and March, the best two-month pace since 2006. The local data is one month behind the national figures.