Cities With the Highest (and Lowest) Unemployment

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17. Boulder, CO
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 3.2%
> 2013 poverty rate: 13.9%
> 2013 median household income: $71,604
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 58.5%

Boulder is located at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, 41 miles northwest of Denver. Home to the main campus of the University of Colorado, 58.5% of adults in the Boulder metro area had at least a bachelor’s degree, the highest percentage of any U.S. metro area and nearly twice the national figure. A relatively high 9.2% of households had annual incomes of $200,000 or more in 2013, ninth highest in the country.

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17. Idaho Falls, ID
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 3.2%
> 2013 poverty rate: 11.2%
> 2013 median household income: $50,439
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 24.5%

The November unemployment rate in most metro areas with strong job markets had not changed substantially from the previous year. The unemployment rate of 3.2% in Idaho Falls, however, improved 1.4 percentage points from the year before, slightly faster than the comparable national improvement. In addition, while most of the strongest job markets had high proportions of very wealthy households, 1.5% of households in Idaho Falls earned at least $200,000 in 2013, one of the lowest proportions nationwide.

17. Salt Lake City, UT
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 3.2%
> 2013 poverty rate: 12.4%
> 2013 median household income: $61,520
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 31.2%

As the capital of Utah, it is not surprising that state government heads the metro area list of largest employers in the Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City’s unemployment rate dropped 0.4 percentage points from November 2013 to November 2014, as its labor force contracted 0.5 percentage points. The metro area’s household income of $61,520 was roughly $9,000 higher than the national median income of $52,250 in 2013. Areas with low unemployment rates generally have relatively low violent crime rates. However, the violent crime rate in Salt Lake City was 356.6 per 100,000 residents, not much lower than the national rate of 367.9 violent crimes per 100,000 people.

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16. Billings, MT
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 3.1%
> 2013 poverty rate: 12.9%
> 2013 median household income: $52,583
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 26.8%

Billings is less than a half day drive to the Bakken Formation, the source of the regional oil boom. Nearly 4.0% of Billings’ workforce is employed in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, and mining industry, one of the higher shares nationwide. Partly as a result of the strong economy and job market in the area, median home prices remained roughly unchanged since 2007. By contrast, home prices across the country fell 15.9% over a similar period.

14. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 3.0%
> 2013 poverty rate: 10.3%
> 2013 median household income: $67,194
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 39.3%

The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro area straddles the Mississippi River, but its major employers are not river-based and significantly diversified. Concentrations of government jobs can be found in St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic and Target stores are also major employers in the area. The area’s unemployment rate dropped 1.1 percentage points in the year ending November 2014, even though the labor force grew 0.9 percentage points over that time.