Battered by a downturn in the gaming industry and hammered by Hurricane Sandy, Atlantic City, New Jersey, has begun a modest comeback. However, the pandemic has nearly closed the city completely. It has an unemployment rate of 34.2%, the highest of any city in the country, according to June numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Atlantic City’s labor force last year was 129,318 in June. This past June, it was 118,905. A drop of just over 10,000 seems relatively small. For Atlantic City, it is hard to describe the decimation. A year ago, unemployment was 4.4% in June. While that was higher than the national average, it was still a strong figure.
Atlantic City, the heart of the metropolitan statistical area in which it is located, already has a number of disadvantages compared to most cities. Median household income is just under $28,000, compared to the national average of over $60,000. The poverty rate is 37.7%, much more than twice the national average. Even Detroit does not have a higher number.
Atlantic City had lost its luck a few years ago. It was the first city to open a casino on the east coast. That meant people in the east did not have to fly or drive to Las Vegas. Donald Trump helped open more casinos. By the mid-1980s, the city was thriving.
In the 1990s, the building of casinos elsewhere in the east began to siphon off its traffic. Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut opened in the 1990s. Within a decade, many more cities legalized gambling as a way to supplement tax income.
Atlantic City was torn to shreds in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy, which submerged some parts of the city. Thomas Foley, the city’s chief of emergency management, said, “The city is under siege.”
Atlantic City had made a comeback as a tourist destination over the past few years. The pandemic robbed the city of the recovery. It is hard to see how that changes soon.