Special Report

Cities With the Worst Unemployment Since the Pandemic Started

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

33. Battle Creek, MI
> Unemployment rate, June 2020: 15.1%
> Year-to-date employment change: -8.7%
> Cumulative COVID-19 cases to date: 699 (520 per 100,000 people)
> Poverty rate: 18.0%
> Population: 134,487

Battle Creek, Michigan, is one of 33 U.S. metro areas where the unemployment rate stands at over 15%. Much of Battle Creek’s current employment crisis is a product of the COVID-19 crisis. At the beginning of the year, unemployment stood at just 3.9% in the southern Michigan metro area. Since January, more than 5,000 jobs have disappeared in the city, nearly one in every 10.

While Battle Creek has one of the worst unemployment crises in the country, the metro area’s job market appears to be improving. As recently as April, 25.6% of the metro area labor force was unemployed.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

32. Fresno, CA
> Unemployment rate, June 2020: 15.1%
> Year-to-date employment change: -9.7%
> Cumulative COVID-19 cases to date: 13,209 (1,350 per 100,000 people)
> Poverty rate: 21.5%
> Population: 994,400

At the beginning of the year, before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt in the United States, Fresno had one of the worst job markets in the country. The metro area’s January 2020 jobless rate was 6.9%, nearly double the comparable 3.6% national jobless rate. Over the months since, nearly 41,000 jobs in the metro area have disappeared, and the unemployment rate now stands at 15.1%, one of the highest of any U.S. metro area.

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31. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI
> Unemployment rate, June 2020: 15.2%
> Year-to-date employment change: -10.6%
> Cumulative COVID-19 cases to date: 157,746 (1,654 per 100,000 people)
> Poverty rate: 11.2%
> Population: 9.5 million

Chicago is one several major American economic hubs, and one of many Midwestern metro areas, where the unemployment rate now stands at over 15%. In January 2020, before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt in the U.S., Chicago’s unemployment rate was just 3.5%. Over the months since, the city has shed nearly half a million jobs.

As is the case in many other metropolitan areas on this list, Chicago was seriously affected by COVID-19. As of late July, there were 1,654 COVID-19 cases in Chicago for every 100,000 people, more than the 1,309 per 100,000 national concentration.

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30. Modesto, CA
> Unemployment rate, June 2020: 15.2%
> Year-to-date employment change: -13.8%
> Cumulative COVID-19 cases to date: 8,228 (1,526 per 100,000 people)
> Poverty rate: 15.6%
> Population: 549,815

Modesto is one of several California metro areas with an unemployment rate above 15%. The city has shed nearly 32,000 jobs since the beginning of the year, a 13.8% overall decline in employment.

In addition to staggering job losses during the pandemic, Modesto has also had a relatively high concentration of cases of the virus itself. As of late July, there were 1,526 cases of the novel coronavirus in Modesto for every 100,000 people, more than the 1,309 per 100,000 national concentration.

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29. Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA
> Unemployment rate, June 2020: 15.2%
> Year-to-date employment change: -14.9%
> Cumulative COVID-19 cases to date: 5,072 (911 per 100,000 people)
> Poverty rate: 14.3%
> Population: 555,485

Scranton, one of two Pennsylvania metro areas with an unemployment rate above 15%, has been economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic more than most American cities. Before COVID-19 was widespread in the U.S., more than one-fifth of the metro area’s workforce was employed in industries, such as transportation and warehousing, that are at a disproportionately high risk of slowdown in a pandemic scenario. Over 39,000 jobs have disappeared in the Scranton metro area since the beginning of 2020.

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