The Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program provides
estimates for the following geographic areas:
- census regions and divisions;
- states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico;
- federal statistical areas—metropolitan areas, metropolitan divisions,
micropolitan areas, and combined areas;
- small labor market areas;
- counties and county equivalents;
- cities of 25,000 population or more;
- cities and towns in New England with populations of at least 1,000; and
- parts of cities listed in (6) above which cross county boundaries.
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
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 used instead of counties, since counties in New England historically have
little geopolitical significance.
Federal Statistical Areas
Standard delineations of areas for federal statistical purposes are established by the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB). Updates to the standards for delineating areas occur each
decade following the census. For the standards used by OMB to revise federal
statistical areas following the 2010 Census, see the
notice dated June 28, 2010. The updated federal statistical areas based on the application of these standards to population
data from the 2010 Census and commutation data from the American Community Survey were issued on February 28, 2013, through
OMB Bulletin No. 13-01,
Revised Delineations of Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Micropolitan Statistical Areas, and Combined Statistical Areas, and Guidance on
Uses of the Delineations of These Areas.
Relative to the Census 2000-based delineations, the number of 2010-based metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Puerto Rico increased from 380 to 394,
while the number of micropolitan areas decreased from 590 to 546. The number of metropolitan divisions increased from 34 to 38, and the number
of combined areas increased from 134 to 171. These counts reflect the LAUS program's use of New England City and Town Areas (NECTAs) for the six
New England states, which OMB again delineated as an alternative equivalent to the county-based delineations for that part of the country.
Information on subsequent area updates by OMB is available on our Federal Statistical Area Delineations page.
Small Labor Market Areas
Labor market areas (LMAs) are an exhaustive level of substate geography published
by the LAUS program. The metropolitan and micropolitan areas delineated by OMB
are "major" LMAs for LAUS purposes. The balance of the U.S. 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 small LMAs are based on commutation data from the American Community
Survey 5-year dataset for 2006-10, the same source of the commutation data
used by OMB for its 2010-based metropolitan and micropolitan area delineations.
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 non-overlapping and geographically
exhaustive. Since these areas are based on the degree of economic
integration as measured by commuting flows without regard to
state boundaries, interstate LMAs exist. LMAs in New England are
composed of cities and towns rather than counties.
The following criteria were used to designate small LMAs
following the 2010 Census:
- Worker flows were examined, and counties combined into one small LMA if either or both
of the following conditions were met:
- At least 25 percent of the employed residents of one county commuted to work in another county
- At least 25 percent of the employment (persons working) in one county were accounted for by workers commuting from another county.
- Small LMAs, as is the case with metropolitan and micropolitan areas, are required to
be contiguous. First, counties were combined based on the commutation criteria. Then,
potential multi-county small LMAs were checked for contiguity. Noncontiguous portions of
potential small LMAs were considered separately. If the noncontiguous area contained
more than one county, it was reevaluated using (1) above. If the noncontiguous area
consisted of a single county, it was designated as a separate small LMA.
- Subsequent to the verification of contiguity described in (2) above, commuting flows
between adjacent small LMAs were evaluated. Those areas for which the measures and
thresholds specified in (1) above were met merged to form one small LMA.
This procedure was limited to one iteration, as was the case for metropolitan and
micropolitan area delineation under the 2010-based OMB standards.
- For the New England city and town-based small LMAs, due to the large number of small
cities and towns, residual cities and towns were added to contiguous small LMAs based on commuting flows and/or
other economic ties. If, after applying the commutation criteria, a city or town had been
identified as an individual small LMA, the city or town may have been added to a contiguous small
LMA, especially if the city or town was extremely small. Fourteen towns that were isolated between
the metropolitan and/or micropolitan NECTAs delineated by OMB were not defined within labor market areas.
Naming Conventions: Single-county small LMA names include the full
county name, followed by the state abbreviation, such as "Hill 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
"Rockbridge-Lexington-Buena Vista, VA LMA."
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 is 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 intrastate part of the interstate LMA are created as a
necessity of the LAUS estimation procedure. Similarly, cities that are
located in more than one county must have estimates created for the city
parts in each county.
Last Modified Date: March 15, 2019