5. Yuma, AZ
> Unemployment rate, July 2020: 20.5%
> Year-to-date employment change: -7.1%
> Poverty rate: 19.6%
> Population: 212,128
Unlike many other cities on this list, the elevated unemployment level in Yuma, Arizona predates COVID-19. At the beginning of the year, the area’s unemployment rate was 16.5%, higher than all but one metro area — El Centro, California — in the country. Yuma’s jobless rate reached 25.0% in April, and it now stands at 20.5%, 4 percentage points higher than in January.
While COVID-19 appears to have had a smaller than typical impact on Yuma’s economy, it has taken a considerable toll on the metro area’s public health. There have been 5,930 known cases of COVID-19 for every 100,000 people in Yuma to date, the highest concentration of any metro area in the country.
4. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI
> Unemployment rate, July 2020: 21.3%
> Year-to-date employment change: -24.5%
> Poverty rate: 7.1%
> Population: 167,295
Few sectors of the economy have been hit as hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as tourism. For Hawaii’s Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina metro area, where tourism is an economic backbone, overall employment has fallen by a staggering 24.5% since January, just before the pandemic hit. Currently, the metro area is one of only five nationwide where more than one in every five members of the labor force are out of work.
From January through July 2020, Hawaii reported just 2.1 million visitors by air and less than 30,000 by cruise ship, a 64.7% and 61.3% decline from the same period in 2019, respectively.
3. Ocean City, NJ
> Unemployment rate, July 2020: 22.8%
> Year-to-date employment change: -34.9%
> Poverty rate: 9.4%
> Population: 92,560
Ocean City, one of the smallest metro areas in the country, is one of only five nationwide where more than one in every five members of the labor force are out of work. The metro area of the Jersey Shore town is one several on this list that depends on tourism — an industry that has all but shut down in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of people working in the Ocean City metro area has fallen by over one-third since the beginning of the year, by far the largest year-to-date decline in employment of any U.S. metro area.
2. Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ
> Unemployment rate, July 2020: 24.6%
> Year-to-date employment change: -18.5%
> Poverty rate: 12.9%
> Population: 265,429
Atlantic City, one of several New Jersey metro areas to rank on this list, has nearly the highest unemployment rate in the United States, at 24.6% — more than double the national jobless rate of 10.2%. Tourism, an industry that has been all but shut down during the first few months of the pandemic, is an economic pillar in Atlantic City. The leisure and hospitality sector accounts for about one-third of all jobs in the metro area. Since January, 18.5% of jobs in Atlantic City have disappeared.
The metro area’s current unemployment crisis is a marked improvement from one month ago. Before Atlantic City casinos reopened in July, unemployment hovered over 30% through April, May, and June.
1. El Centro, CA
> Unemployment rate, July 2020: 25.8%
> Year-to-date employment change: -6.3%
> Poverty rate: 23.1%
> Population: 181,827
The unemployment rate in El Centro, California, of 25.8% is the highest among U.S. metro areas. Though the metro area has shed thousands of jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was struggling with high unemployment before the coronavirus-induced recession. In January, El Centro’s jobless rate stood at 18.4%, higher than every other metro area at the time. In El Centro, 9.6% of households live on less than $10,000 a year, compared with the national average of 6.3%, and 19.8% of households receive food stamps, well above the U.S. average of 11.3%.
In addition to weakening El Centro’s already struggling economy, COVID-19 has also taken a public health toll in the metro area. The area reported 5,633 known cases of the virus for every 100,000 people, the second-highest concentration in the country.