The unemployment rate in America has improved considerably since the tremendous rise in the jobless rate that began in April 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic started to savage the country. In the months before that, the unemployment rate as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) had dropped to a five-decade low of 3.5%. In the past two months, the economy has added fewer jobs than expected. However, there has been an improvement. In May, the national unemployment rate dropped to 5.8% as America added 559,000 jobs.
The BLS also reports unemployment rates by city and state, and the figures vary substantially. Its most recent metro jobs report is the “METROPOLITAN AREA EMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT — APRIL 2021.” It covers the country’s 389 largest cities by population. Across those, the data show that nonfarm payroll employment rose year over year in 335 metro areas and was nearly unchanged in 54 others.
As an indication of how much the employment situation in the United States changes from place to place, note that 27 cities had unemployment rates below 3% and 10 cities had rates above 10%. The 10% level matches the worst monthly national unemployment rate for the entire nation during the Great Recession, which shows how devastating the jobs situation remains in parts of the country today.
The city with the lowest unemployment rate in April was Logan, Utah, at 2.0%. At the other end of the spectrum, the unemployment rate in El Centro, California, was 16.1%. That is about the same as the annual national rate toward the end of the Great Depression. Logan, on the other hand, has a jobless rate well below the national unemployment rate when the jobs market was at its best a year and a half ago.
Both Logan and El Centro are small compared to most other American metros. El Centro has a civilian labor force of 64,910 and Logan’s is 72,616. Only 1,458 people were out of work in Logan in April.
While Logan may have an extremely low unemployment rate, its economic situation is not perfect. Median household income is $56,800, slightly below the national figure. The poverty rate of 14.8% is well above the national number.