The Phoenix area was the nation's weakest large labor market in July, according to figures recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Among metropolitan labor markets with more than one million workers, both Phoenix and Detroit recorded decreases in employment of more than 7 percent. But Phoenix was weaker than Detroit and all other large labor markets in July, with an over-the-year percentage decline of 7.8 percent compared to 7.5 percent for Detroit.

Phoenix also lost a greater number of jobs (143,100) compared to Detroit (139,600) over the past 12 months.

The Bottom 5: Job Loss In Largest Metropolitan Labor Markets
(July 2009 vs July 2008)
Metro AreaPercent DecreaseJob Loss
1. Phoenix-7.8-143,100
2. Detroit-7.5-139,600
3. Riverside-6.0-72,000
4. Orlando-5.6-59,800
5. Cleveland-5.1-54,100
Source: Compiled by W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports

While Phoenix and Detroit have alternated in the bottom-most position for the past several months, the Riverside metropolitan area has remained solidly in third place. In July, nonagricultural employment was down by 6 percent compared to a year ago, and there were 72,000 fewer workers employed. Riverside's over-the-year employment losses have been at 6 percent or more every month this year.

Orlando has lost nearly 60,000 jobs since July of last year, and remains in fourth position with a drop over-the-year of 5.6 percent.

Cleveland is a newcomer to the bottom 5 rankings in recent months. Over-the-year job losses first exceeded 5 percent in March and have continued as both construction and manufacturing have posted double-digit rates of decrease.

Several contenders for a position within the bottom 5 weakest large labor markets are waiting in the wings. The San Francisco-Oakland metro area lost 99,100 jobs in July and the rate of over-the-year decline was 4.9 percent, the same as that for Atlanta. However, the San Francisco-Oakland decreases seem to be getting larger, while Atlanta job losses have decreased in the past couple of months. Analysts will be watching these two areas closely for further signs of weakness.

Although there are no large labor markets adding jobs at present, there are several with job losses below 2 percent. The Washington, D.C. job losses over-the-year in July were a mere 1 percent. The decline for Dallas-Fort Worth was 1.5 percent, and for the greater New York City area it was 1.8 percent.

The Los Angeles area lost the most jobs overall (240,100). But with a percentage decline of only 4.3 percent, the City of Angels appears to have only minimal prospects for recognition among the Bottom 5 weakest markets anytime soon.