Cities With the Highest (and Lowest) Unemployment

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8. Grand Forks, ND-MN
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 2.6%
> 2013 poverty rate: 15.4%
> 2013 median household income: $50,891
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 27.4%

Education and health services are a major reason for low unemployment in Grand Forks, employing a large share of the workforce. The metro area is also home to Grand Forks Air Force Base, a driver for the local economy, such as the retail trade sector, which employs about 13.6% of the workforce. Grand Forks’ unemployment rate improved 0.4 percentage points from November 2013 to November 2014. While Grand Forks shed payroll jobs during the recession, it had recovered all those jobs and more since the recession ended.

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8. Iowa City, IA
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 2.6%
> 2013 poverty rate: 15.6%
> 2013 median household income: $52,220
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 48.6%

Iowa City’s unemployment rate of 2.6% improved by 0.1 percentage points from a year ago, even though the region’s labor force jumped 3.3% over the same period. Iowa City is the home of the ACT testing service, which provides standardized tests for college-bound high schoolers, and is the seventh largest employer in the region. The University of Iowa is the area’s largest employer, along with related health care organizations such as the university’s hospital. Education and health-related industries employed 41% of Iowa City’s workforce, the second highest such share in the country, topped only by Ithaca, NY.

5. Logan, UT-ID
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 2.5%
> 2013 poverty rate: 14.6%
> 2013 median household income: $47,377
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 35.9%

The Logan metro area’s labor force grew 1.6% over the year through November of last year, and the unemployment rate dropped slightly over that period. The area is home to Utah State University, which is also a major employer in the region. In addition, like many other metro areas with strong job markets, a major source of oil and natural gas is located nearby.

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5. Ames, IA
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 2.5%
> 2013 poverty rate: 23.5%
> 2013 median household income: $50,279
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 48.2%

Ames residents are among the best educated — as measured by high school graduation rate — of all metro areas. At the same time, the area is one of only a few strong job markets with a median household income lower than the national median. As with most of the top 28 regions, the Ames metro area’s education, health and social service industry employed a larger proportion of the workforce than the national share in 2013 — 38% compared with 23%, nationally. Of the area’s top eight employers, six are in those fields, led by Iowa State University, Mary Greeley Medical Center, and McFarland Clinic.

5. Bismarck, ND
> 2014 November unemployment rate: 2.5%
> 2013 poverty rate: 8.3%
> 2013 median household income: $64,626
> 2013 pct. with bachelor’s degree: 30.5%

The unemployment rate in Bismarck rose by 0.3 percentage points from November 2013 to November 2014. The only other strong metro area job market to show an increase was the Burlington metro area. Bismarck’s labor force grew by 3.9% during that time. The area boasted the 21st highest household income of all metros, at $64,626, nearly 24% higher than the national average of $52,250 in 2013. Also, just 5.6% of households used food stamp benefits, the fourth lowest rate among all metro areas.