Cities With the Highest (and Lowest) Unemployment

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4. Visalia-Porterville, CA
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 12.3%
> 2013 poverty rate: 30.1%
> 2013 median household income: $39,422
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 13.3%

Like many other weak job markets in California, Visalia-Porterville residents were relatively poor. A typical household earned less than $40,000 in 2013, one of the lowest median household incomes nationwide. Partly as a result, nearly 26% of households in the area relied on food stamps in 2013, nearly the highest such rate nationwide. While such government subsidies likely helped in providing relief for many families living in poverty — the poverty rate of 30.1% was nearly twice the national rate of 15.8% — it also reflects a weak economy. More than 12% of the area’s workforce was unemployed in 2013, versus the national November unemployment rate of 5.8%.

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4. Ocean City, NJ
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 12.3%
> 2013 poverty rate: 9.4%
> 2013 median household income: $60,560
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 33.7%

Unlike the vast majority of other metro areas with poor job markets, Ocean City metro area residents were relatively well-off financially and benefited from a low poverty rate and strong educational attainment rates. The median household income of $60,560 in 2013 was among the higher figures, and the poverty rate of less than 10% was substantially better than the national rate of nearly 16%. And while less than 30% of American adults had completed at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2013, nearly 34% of Ocean City adults had done so, an exceptionally high proportion given the high unemployment rate of 12.3% in November.

2. El Centro, CA
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 22.7%
> 2013 poverty rate: 22.1%
> 2013 median household income: $43,310
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 12.7%

El Centro is one of only two metro areas where more than one in five workers were unemployed in November. As in many other California metro areas, El Centro’s job market has a relatively high concentration of agricultural positions. While 2.0% of the U.S. workforce worked in the agricultural, forestry, fishing and mining industry, 8.7% of El Centro’s workforce were employed in the sector, one of the higher proportions. In addition, the metro area has yet to make anywhere close to a full recovery from the housing crisis. As of the beginning of last year, the area’s median home price had fallen 56.3% from the peak in 2007. By contrast, median home prices across the country fell 15.9% over a similar period.

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1. Yuma, AZ
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 23.1%
> 2013 poverty rate: 17.8%
> 2013 median household income: $41,666
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 13.9%

More than 23% of the Yuma metro area’s workforce was unemployed in November of last year, the highest unemployment rate among all U.S. metro areas. Compared to the previous November, the unemployment rate had also increased 9.3 percentage points, by far the worst change in the nation and over a period when unemployment across the nation improved. Less than 14% of adults in the area had completed at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2013, one of the lowest educational attainment rates nationwide and a partial explanation for the metro area’s abysmal job market. Despite the increase and poor job climate, the size Yuma’s labor force remained flat from November 2013 to November 2014.

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