The Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program provides estimates for the following geographic areas:
Standard geographic area definitions based on existing political divisions are used by the LAUS program to determine the specific areas for which estimates are generated. These same definitions are used by other Federal and state agencies, enabling comparison and tabulation of data across programs. Standardized definitions also increase the availability of input data for the LAUS program from other statistical or administrative programs.
Local geographic area designations vary across the United States. For example, parishes in Louisiana and boroughs in Alaska are equivalent to counties; independent cities in Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, and Virginia are considered equivalent to counties; and cities and towns in New England are generally used instead of counties, since counties in New England have little geopolitical significance.
Federal Statistical Areas
Standard definitions of areas for Federal statistical purposes are established under the auspices of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Revisions to the standards for defining areas occur each decade following the decennial census. Relative to the 1990s, the 2000-based standards resulted in the designation of 49 new metropolitan areas while revising the definitions of existing metropolitan areas, and also identified for the first time micropolitan areas. Additionally, the 2000 standards established two new sets of statistical areas—metropolitan divisions in the most populous metropolitan areas and combined areas. New England City and Town Areas (NECTAs) also were defined as an alternative to the county-based metropolitan and micropolitan areas in the six New England states; the LAUS program uses NECTAs rather than county-based areas for New England.
For the detailed standards used by OMB to redefine Federal statistical areas based on the 2000 Census, refer to Federal Register, December 27, 2000 ((PDF 247 K). A complete listing of the updated areas appears in the attachment to OMB Bulletin No. 04-03, Update of Statistical Area Definitions and Additional Guidance on Their Uses, dated February 18, 2004.
As of OMB Bulletin No. 04-03, there are 367 metropolitan areas and 582 micropolitan areas in the United States. (These counts reflect the LAUS use of NECTAs in New England.) In addition, there are 8 metropolitan areas and 5 micropolitan areas in Puerto Rico. (Note that the LAUS program usually incorporates revised area definitions with the publication of data for the January following the announcement by OMB.)
For more information on the statistical areas defined by OMB, see New Statistical Area Designations Based on Census 2000.
Small Labor Market Areas
Labor market areas (LMAs) are the basic substate geographic areas used for LAUS estimation. The metropolitan and micropolitan areas defined by OMB are designated as "major" LMAs for the LAUS program. The balance of the Nation is grouped into "small" LMAs, consisting of one or more counties or county equivalents. The LAUS program redefines small LMAs after each decennial census; the current designations are based on Census 2000 data.
Broadly, a LMA is an economically integrated geographic area within which individuals can reside and find employment within a reasonable distance or can readily change employment without changing their place of residence. In addition, LMAs are nonoverlapping and geographically exhaustive. Since these designations are based on the degree of economic integration determined primarily by commutation flows without regard to state boundaries, some interstate LMAs exist. LMAs in New England are based on cities and towns rather than counties.
The following criteria were used for designate small LMAs following the 2000 Census:
Naming Conventions: Single-county small LMA names typically include the full county name, followed by the state abbreviation, such as "Gillespie County, TX." Multi-county small LMA names consist of not more than three county names, in descending order of population, followed by the state abbreviation and the term "LMA," as in "Wise-Dickenson-Norton, VA LMA." Small LMAs with strong commuting ties to neighboring metropolitan or micropolitan areas were labeled "Adjacent LMAs."
In the case of interstate small LMAs, state abbreviations were sequenced according to the population sizes of the intrastate parts. That is, the state with the largest population share among the parts of the area was listed first, and so on, as in "Gogebic-Iron, MI-WI LMA."
Other Defined Areas
In addition to LAUS areas based on standard geographic classifications, several nonstandard areas are defined. Where LMAs cross state lines, estimates for each multi-county intrastate part of the interstate LMA are created as a necessity of the LAUS estimation procedures. Similarly, cities that are located in more than one county must have estimates created for the city parts in each county.
Last Modified Date: September 25, 2008