Special Report

51 Counties With the Highest Unemployment

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The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.7% last May, the lowest level in more than eight years and down from 5.5% the year before. The U.S. economy has been steadily recovering from the Great Recession, when the national unemployment rate hit a 10.0% peak in October 2009. The recovery, however, has been far from uniform. In 51 counties, the unemployment rate remains greater than 10.0%.

To identify the counties with the highest unemployment rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The county with the highest unemployment rate is Kusilvak, Alaska — previously Wade Hampton Census Area — where 22.3% of the workforce is out of a job.

Many of the most oil-dependent economies have been the slowest to recover in recent years. Oil prices have fallen worldwide, and counties that depend on oil revenues had relatively low economic activity as a result. Three of the five counties with the highest unemployment rates are in Alaska, where more than one-third of all jobs are related to the oil and gas industry.

Click here to see the 51 counties with the highest unemployment.

Counties with an educated workforce are more likely to have lower unemployment. Jobs that require higher educational attainment tend to have greater security and longer tenures. The current unemployment rate for adults with at least a bachelor’s degree is 2.5%, 5.0 percentage points lower than the 7.5% unemployment rate among high school dropouts. The difference is even greater in tough economic times. In October 2009, 15.2% of the workforce without a high school diploma was unemployed compared to 4.7% of the workforce with a bachelor’s degree or more.

In 43 of the 51 counties with the highest unemployment rates, less than 15% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, less than half the corresponding national educational attainment rate of 29.3%. Similarly, in all but five of these counties, residents are less likely to complete high school than adults nationwide.

Unemployed workers are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as Americans nationwide. While the national poverty rate is 15.6%, among the unemployed the poverty rate is 32.3%. This is especially the case in the counties with the highest unemployment rates. Jefferson, Mississippi, for example, reported an unemployment rate of 15.3% — far higher than the 4.7% national jobless rate — and an extraordinarily large 47.9% poverty rate, the highest in the country.

Places with high unemployment rates have, in addition to higher poverty rates, lower incomes overall. In a handful of the counties with the 51 highest employment rates, the typical household makes less than $24,000 annually, or less than half the $53,482 national median household income.

To identify the counties with the highest unemployment rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 51 counties where more than 10% of laborers are unemployed using employment data recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment rates are for May and were not seasonally adjusted. Poverty rates, educational attainment rates, and median household incomes came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey.

These are the counties with the highest unemployment rates.

Clay County, Kentucky
Source: Wikimedia Commons

51. Clay, Kentucky
> May unemployment rate: 10.1%
> Total population: 21,446
> Poverty rate: 35.7%
> Median household income: $22,626

Chicken, Alaska
Source: Wikimedia Commons

50. Southeast Fairbanks, Alaska
> May unemployment rate: 10.1%
> Total population: 7,044
> Poverty rate: 13.6%
> Median household income: $65,481

Wilkinson County, Mississippi
Source: Wikimedia Commons

49. Wilkinson, Mississippi
> May unemployment rate: 10.1%
> Total population: 9,481
> Poverty rate: 28.4%
> Median household income: $32,044

Quitman County, Mississippi
Source: Wikimedia Commons

48. Quitman, Mississippi
> May unemployment rate: 10.1%
> Total population: 7,902
> Poverty rate: 38.6%
> Median household income: $24,212

Alice, Texas Jim Wells County
Source: Thinkstock

47. Jim Wells, Texas
> May unemployment rate: 10.2%
> Total population: 41,348
> Poverty rate: 20.5%
> Median household income: $42,463

Dillingham, Alaska
Source: Wikimedia Commons

46. Dillingham, Alaska
> May unemployment rate: 10.2%
> Total population: 4,956
> Poverty rate: 18.1%
> Median household income: $54,846

Grantsville, West Virginia Calhoun County
Source: Wikimedia Commons

45. Calhoun, West Virginia
> May unemployment rate: 10.2%
> Total population: 7,583
> Poverty rate: 22.9%
> Median household income: $31,017

Morehouse Parish, Louisiana
Source: Wikimedia Commons

44. Morehouse, Louisiana
> May unemployment rate: 10.2%
> Total population: 27,319
> Poverty rate: 27.3%
> Median household income: $28,304

Pike County, Kentucky
Source: Wikimedia Commons

43. Pike, Kentucky
> May unemployment rate: 10.5%
> Total population: 64,380
> Poverty rate: 24.1%
> Median household income: $32,571

Hindman, Kentucky Knott County
Source: Wikimedia Commons

42. Knott, Kentucky
> May unemployment rate: 10.5%
> Total population: 16,139
> Poverty rate: 26.5%
> Median household income: $31,624

Thomasville, Alabama Clarke County
Source: Wikimedia Commons

41. Clarke, Alabama
> May unemployment rate: 10.6%
> Total population: 25,331
> Poverty rate: 27.0%
> Median household income: $30,951

Glacier National Park, Alaska, Hoonah-Angoon Census Area
Source: Thinkstock

40. Hoonah-Angoon, Alaska
> May unemployment rate: 10.6%
> Total population: 2,126
> Poverty rate: 15.0%
> Median household income: $50,268

Floyd County, Kentucky
Source: Wikimedia Commons

39. Floyd, Kentucky
> May unemployment rate: 10.7%
> Total population: 39,087
> Poverty rate: 29.5%
> Median household income: $30,190

Benton, Alabama (Lowndes County)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

38. Lowndes, Alabama
> May unemployment rate: 10.7%
> Total population: 10,918
> Poverty rate: 29.3%
> Median household income: $25,678

Logan County, West Virginia
Source: Wikimedia Commons

37. Logan, West Virginia
> May unemployment rate: 10.7%
> Total population: 36,169
> Poverty rate: 19.6%
> Median household income: $37,312

Duchesne County Courthouse, Utah
Source: Wikimedia Commons

36. Duchesne, Utah
> May unemployment rate: 10.8%
> Total population: 19,378
> Poverty rate: 10.1%
> Median household income: $60,700

Maverick County, Texas
Source: Wikimedia Commons

35. Maverick, Texas
> May unemployment rate: 10.8%
> Total population: 55,821
> Poverty rate: 29.9%
> Median household income: $32,536

Beallsville Monroe County, Ohio
Source: Wikimedia Commons

34. Monroe, Ohio
> May unemployment rate: 10.8%
> Total population: 14,590
> Poverty rate: 18.8%
> Median household income: $41,394

Humphrey County, Mississippi
Source: Wikimedia Commons

33. Humphreys, Mississippi
> May unemployment rate: 10.8%
> Total population: 9,106
> Poverty rate: 40.5%
> Median household income: $24,387

Duval County, Texas
Source: Wikimedia Commons

32. Duval, Texas
> May unemployment rate: 10.9%
> Total population: 11,644
> Poverty rate: 23.7%
> Median household income: $32,479

Elliott County, Kentucky
Source: Wikimedia Commons

31. Elliott, Kentucky
> May unemployment rate: 10.9%
> Total population: 7,781
> Poverty rate: 29.6%
> Median household income: $28,363

Vernal Utah Temple Uintah County
Source: Thinkstock

30. Uintah, Utah
> May unemployment rate: 11.0%
> Total population: 34,576
> Poverty rate: 11.7%
> Median household income: $62,363

Morris County Texas
Source: co.morris.tx.us

29. Morris, Texas
> May unemployment rate: 11.0%
> Total population: 12,805
> Poverty rate: 17.6%
> Median household income: $39,387

Apache County, Arizona
Source: Wikimedia Commons

28. Apache, Arizona
> May unemployment rate: 11.0%
> Total population: 72,142
> Poverty rate: 35.9%
> Median household income: $32,396

Letcher County, Kentucky
Source: Wikimedia Commons

27. Letcher, Kentucky
> May unemployment rate: 11.1%
> Total population: 23,965
> Poverty rate: 24.5%
> Median household income: $31,630

Harlan County, Kentucky
Source: Wikimedia Commons

26. Harlan, Kentucky
> May unemployment rate: 11.2%
> Total population: 28,744
> Poverty rate: 32.1%
> Median household income: $25,186

Brooks County, Texas
Source: Wikimedia Commons

25. Brooks, Texas
> May unemployment rate: 11.4%
> Total population: 7,200
> Poverty rate: 36.0%
> Median household income: $22,176

Alaska Prince of Wales island Hyder Alaska
Source: Thinkstock

24. Prince of Wales-Hyder, Alaska
> May unemployment rate: 11.4%
> Total population: 6,356
> Poverty rate: 15.6%
> Median household income: $46,387

East Carroll Parish, Louisiana
Source: Wikimedia Commons

23. East Carroll, Louisiana
> May unemployment rate: 11.5%
> Total population: 7,602
> Poverty rate: 46.6%
> Median household income: $24,947

Leslie County, Kentucky
Source: Wikimedia Commons

22. Leslie, Kentucky
> May unemployment rate: 11.6%
> Total population: 11,128
> Poverty rate: 23.9%
> Median household income: $29,156

Windsor Ruins Claiborne County, Mississippi
Source: Thinkstock

21. Claiborne, Mississippi
> May unemployment rate: 11.9%
> Total population: 9,396
> Poverty rate: 36.4%
> Median household income: $23,917

West Carroll Parish, Louisiana
Source: Wikimedia Commons

20. West Carroll, Louisiana
> May unemployment rate: 12.2%
> Total population: 11,522
> Poverty rate: 26.7%
> Median household income: $31,843

Starr County, Texas
Source: https://www.facebook.com/starr.countytexas

19. Starr, Texas
> May unemployment rate: 12.4%
> Total population: 62,040
> Poverty rate: 38.9%
> Median household income: $25,906

Willacy County, Texas
Source: Wikimedia Commons

18. Willacy, Texas
> May unemployment rate: 12.4%
> Total population: 22,056
> Poverty rate: 38.0%
> Median household income: $27,627

Williamson Mingo County, West Virginia
Source: Wikimedia Commons

17. Mingo, West Virginia
> May unemployment rate: 12.5%
> Total population: 26,229
> Poverty rate: 23.0%
> Median household income: $34,495

McDowell County, West Virginia
Source: Wikimedia Commons

16. McDowell, West Virginia
> May unemployment rate: 12.6%
> Total population: 21,281
> Poverty rate: 35.2%
> Median household income: $23,607

Lake and Peninsula Borough, Alaska Katmai National Park
Source: Thinkstock

15. Lake and Peninsula, Alaska
> May unemployment rate: 12.7%
> Total population: 1,490
> Poverty rate: 18.0%
> Median household income: $47,143

Colusa County, California
Source: countyofcolusa.org

14. Colusa, California
> May unemployment rate: 12.7%
> Total population: 21,424
> Poverty rate: 14.5%
> Median household income: $50,503

Zavala County, Texas
Source: Wikimedia Commons

13. Zavala, Texas
> May unemployment rate: 12.9%
> Total population: 12,013
> Poverty rate: 32.3%
> Median household income: $27,253

Issaquena County, Mississippi
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nataliemaynor/

12. Issaquena, Mississippi
> May unemployment rate: 12.9%
> Total population: 1,279
> Poverty rate: 31.6%
> Median household income: $29,583

Nome, Alaska aerial view
Source: Wikimedia Commons

11. Nome, Alaska
> May unemployment rate: 13.3%
> Total population: 9,792
> Poverty rate: 27.6%
> Median household income: $47,579

Luna County, New Mexico
Source: Wikimedia Commons

10. Luna, New Mexico
> May unemployment rate: 13.4%
> Total population: 24,947
> Poverty rate: 30.2%
> Median household income: $28,489

Wilcox County, Alabama
Source: Wikimedia Commons

9. Wilcox, Alabama
> May unemployment rate: 13.5%
> Total population: 11,367
> Poverty rate: 40.6%
> Median household income: $23,406

Bethel, Alaska
Source: Wikimedia Commons

8. Bethel, Alaska
> May unemployment rate: 14.8%
> Total population: 17,576
> Poverty rate: 23.7%
> Median household income: $51,930

Jefferson County Mississippi
Source: Wikimedia Commons

7. Jefferson, Mississippi
> May unemployment rate: 15.3%
> Total population: 7,634
> Poverty rate: 47.9%
> Median household income: $23,480

Magoffin County, Kentucky
Source: Wikimedia Commons

6. Magoffin, Kentucky
> May unemployment rate: 15.6%
> Total population: 13,076
> Poverty rate: 26.8%
> Median household income: $27,947

Alaska Highway, Yukon
Source: Thinkstock

5. Yukon-Koyukuk, Alaska
> May unemployment rate: 16.4%
> Total population: 5,651
> Poverty rate: 24.1%
> Median household income: $37,796

northwest arctic borough Kotzebue, Alaska
Source: Thinkstock

4. Northwest Arctic, Alaska
> May unemployment rate: 17.5%
> Total population: 7,672
> Poverty rate: 22.8%
> Median household income: $63,971

Imperial County Niland, California
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joebielawa/

3. Imperial, California
> May unemployment rate: 19.4%
> Total population: 177,026
> Poverty rate: 23.4%
> Median household income: $41,772

Ocean To Ocean Highway, Yuma, Arizona
Source: Thinkstock

2. Yuma, Arizona
> May unemployment rate: 20.9%
> Total population: 201,453
> Poverty rate: 20.7%
> Median household income: $41,380

Kusilvak Wade Hampton, Alaska
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Kusilvak, Alaska
> May unemployment rate: 22.3%
> Total population: 7,778
> Poverty rate: 33.0%
> Median household income: $40,943

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