Special Report

Worst Cities to Find a Job

Detailed findings:

Unemployment rates are useful economic indicators. However, without the context of broader employment trends, they do not tell the full story. A 5% unemployment rate could represent a considerable improvement in one part of the country but an alarming deterioration in another.

In every metro on this list, the unemployment rate is as high or higher than the comparable 3.9% U.S. rate. Similarly, only one metro area on this list had a greater increase in total employment in the last year than the 1.6% national increase — and all but three cities on this list reported a net decrease in jobs over the same period.

In the metro areas on this list adding jobs, unemployment rates are among the highest in the nation, ranging from 7.2% to 9.5%. Similarly, cities on this list with relatively low unemployment rates, below 5%, are shedding jobs at or near nation-leading pace, with employment declines ranging from 1.2% to 4.7%.

The scarcity — or growing scarcity — of work in these metro areas may be forcing residents to look elsewhere for jobs. Visalia-Porterville, California, is the only metro area on this list where the size of the workforce increased in the last year. In every other metro area, workforces contracted by anywhere from 0.5% to 4.4%.

Widespread joblessness and limited hiring are indicative of longer-term trends in most metro areas on this list. Though one reported faster five-year employment growth than the nation as a whole, the majority shed jobs in the last five years. Similarly, of the 23 metro areas with higher unemployment rates than the U.S. a whole, 18 also had higher than average unemployment half a decade ago.

Cities where it is most difficult to find work often share other similar patterns, such as industrial composition, as they tend to have relatively high concentrations of workers in farming and resource extraction. While nationwide, just 1.9% of workers are employed in agriculture and resource extraction, in most of these metro areas, the industry accounts for a larger share of employment. In Visalia-Porterville, California, nearly one in every five workers are employed in farming or a related occupation.

Similarly, 11.2% of workers nationwide are employed in the generally higher paying professional services, scientific, and management sector. In every metro area on this list, this industry accounts for a smaller share of overall employment.


To determine the worst cities to find a job, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of both unemployment rates for July 2018 and changes in total civilian employment from July 2017 through July 2018 for 382 U.S. metropolitan areas using min-max normalization. Both data points are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and are seasonally adjusted. Employment by industry are for 2016 and are five year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.