BIGGEST JOB LOSERS
From December 2010 to December 2011, the metro areas with the biggest share of employment cuts were:
1. Missoula, Mont., which lost 6.5 percent of its employment, or 3,600 jobs.
2. Abilene, Texas, which lost 5.3 percent of its employment, or 3,500 jobs.
3. Dalton, Ga., which lost 4.9 percent of its employment, or 3,200 jobs.
4. Yakima, Wash., which lost 4 percent of its employment, or 3,100 jobs.
5. Lawton, Okla., which lost 3.9 percent of its employment, or 1,700 jobs.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Dalton, Ga., suffered the third worst employment drop of any of America's 372 metropolitan areas last year, according to government figures released Wednesday.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said in the 12 months ending in December, Dalton shed 3,200 jobs, cutting its employment for all of 2011 by 4.9 percent.
Only Missoula, Mont., and Abilene, Texas, had bigger percentage declines in jobs last year, the BLS said.
As the self-described Carpet Capital of the world, Dalton has been hard hit by the housing and building slump, which cut floorcovering sales nearly in half from the peak levels reached before the recession began to take hold in 2007.
Dalton's unemployment rate in December was 12.1 percent, the highest of any metro area in Georgia, Tennessee or Alabama.
Nationwide, the BLS reported that nearly 90 percent of major U.S. metro cities had lower unemployment rates in December than the same month a year earlier, a reflection of stronger hiring nationwide.
The Labor Department said that unemployment rates fell in 329 metro areas last year. They rose in 37 cities and were unchanged in seven.
In metro Chattanooga, unemployment in December fell to 7.3 percent, the lowest rate in more than three years.
The jobless rate was 8 percent in nearby Cleveland, Tenn.
Over the past year, employment in the 6-county Chattanooga metro area grew by 0.6 percent, or 1,500 jobs, but fell by 1.2 percent, or 1,100 jobs in metro Cleveland.