Ten Cities Where Young People Can’t Find Work

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5. Fresno, Calif.
> Employment rate, ages 20-24: 54.7%
> Total unemployment rate: 15.2% (tied for the highest)
> Pct. high school graduate or higher: 72.4% (3rd lowest)
> Median household income: $41,627 (5th lowest)

Fresno’s 15.2% unemployment rate in 2012 was the highest in the nation, tying with two other metro areas. Fresno residents’ low rates of educational attainment is likely limiting their job and career prospects. Only 72.4% of residents 25 years old and over had a high school diploma, and only 18.5% had at least a bachelor’s degree. Both rates were among the lowest in the nation. Younger workers did not fare better, with only 4.5% of residents aged 18 to 24 holding a college degree, sixth lowest in the nation. Like most of the cities with low youth employment, median household income was also among the lowest of any large metro area, at just $41,627 in 2012.

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4. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.
> Employment rate, ages 20-24: 54.7%
> Total unemployment rate: 8.8% (24th lowest)
> Pct. high school graduate or higher: 84.8% (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $63,982 (13th highest)

Compared with other cities with weak job markets for young adults, the area’s residents were relatively wealthy with a median household income of $63,982 in 2012. Still, for many young workers in the nation’s most populous metro area, competition for jobs is tough. The unemployment rate in the New York metro area was 8.8% in 2012, slightly above the national rate of 8.1%. Older workers picked up a larger share of overall jobs between 2000 and 2012. While the employment rate for residents 18 to 24 years old fell by 5.7 percentage points, the rate for adults at least 25 years old rose 3.1 points. Brookings cited New York City’s P-TECH — which teaches students relevant IT skills and helps them earn progress towards an associate’s degree — as an example of a program that could help high school students develop valuable skills for college and the workplace.

3. Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.
> Employment rate, ages 20-24: 53.7%
> Total unemployment rate: 9.8% (13th highest)
> Pct. high school graduate or higher: 83.3% (11th lowest)
> Median household income: $41,325 (4th lowest)

Just 4.7% of Lakeland residents between the ages of 18 and 24 had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2012, one of the lowest rates of educational attainment among all large metro areas. Young adults suffered one of the greatest job market declines between 2000 and 2012, with the age group’s employment rate dropping 17.1 percentage points over that time, more than in any other large metro area. For older workers, employment also frequently dried up; the area’s employment rate among people at least 25 years old fell 5.5 percentage points, one of the largest declines in America. According to a September report from The Ledger, many of the jobs created in the area in recent years have been in low-paying industries, such as hospitality, which tend to employ a large number of young workers.

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2. Modesto, Calif.
> Employment rate, ages 20-24: 51.8%
> Total unemployment rate: 15.2% (tied for the highest)
> Pct. high school graduate or higher: 77.8% (5th lowest)
> Median household income: $46,405 (23rd lowest)

Like many of the cities with low employment among young people, total unemployment in Modesto was high in 2012 — tied at 15.2% with Stockton and Fresno for the worst in the nation that year. The employment rate among 20 to 24 year olds dropped more than 10 percentage points between 2000 and 2012, one of the largest declines nationwide. One problem may have been the residents’ low educational attainment. Just 2.7% of Modesto’s young adults had at least a bachelor’s degree that year, a smaller proportion than in any other large metro area. In addition to low educational attainment, more than 20% of inhabitants were living below the poverty line as of 2012, among the highest rates nationwide.

1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
> Employment rate, ages 20-24: 50.6%
> Total unemployment rate: 11.0% (7th highest)
> Pct. high school graduate or higher: 63.5% (the lowest)
> Median household income: $33,761 (the lowest)

As of 2012, just 50.6% of McAllen area adults under 25 years old had a job — the lowest rate in the country. Unlike many of these cities, the employment rate of young adults has been low for some time, barely falling from 2000 to 2012. One contributing factor may have been the low educational attainment among young adults. Just 4.2% of adults ages 20 to 24 had a college degree, the fourth lowest rate of any major metro area. Residents of the McAllen metro area were also among the nation’s poorest. As of 2012, 34.5% of McAllen area residents lived below the poverty line, the second highest percentage in the nation and more than double the national rate of 15.9%.

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