Special Report

Cities With the Worst COVID-19 Unemployment Crisis Right Now

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10. Merced, CA
> Sept. 2020 unemployment rate: 13.0%
> 1 yr. employment change: -7.5%
> Largest industry: Government (27.0% of local jobs)
> Population: 277,680

Overall employment has fallen by 7.5% in Merced, California, over the past year. Partially as a result, at 13.0%, the metro area’s unemployment rate is the 10th highest among U.S. metro areas.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic sent Merced’s jobless rate soaring, unemployment in the metro area was far worse than average. In February 2020, a month before President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in the face of the pandemic, Merced’s unemployment rate was 7.8%, more than double the 3.5% national rate at the time.

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9. Odessa, TX
> Sept. 2020 unemployment rate: 13.1%
> 1 yr. employment change: -11.0%
> Largest industry: Mining, logging, and construction (26.0% of local jobs)
> Population: 166,223

Of the five metro areas in Texas with double digit unemployment rates, Odessa has the highest rate. As of September, 13.1% of the local labor force was out of work, well above the 7.9% U.S. unemployment rate. While the jobless rate has been improving steadily nationwide, in Odessa it is getting worse. Though the current 13.1% monthly unemployment rate is well below the recent 16.5% high reported in May, it is greater than the 10.7% jobless rate in August.

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8. Urban Honolulu, HI
> Sept. 2020 unemployment rate: 13.3%
> 1 yr. employment change: -17.0%
> Largest industry: Government (20.6% of local jobs)
> Population: 974,563

Few state economies depend on tourism as much as Hawaii’s — and the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating to the state. So far this year, the state has reported only 2.2 million visitors, down 72% from the 7.7 million visitors at the same time last year.

In Honolulu, about 80,000 fewer people are now working than a year ago — and over half of the lost jobs were in the leisure and hospitality sector. The metro area’s unemployment rate of 13.3% is well above the comparable 7.9% national jobless rate.

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7. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
> Sept. 2020 unemployment rate: 13.4%
> 1 yr. employment change: -9.3%
> Largest industry: Trade, transportation, and utilities (17.7% of local jobs)
> Population: 13.2 million

The Los Angeles metro area is one of the largest in the nation, with over 13.2 million residents. L.A.is also struggling with one of the worst unemployment crises in the country, as 13.4% of the local labor force is now unemployed. The area’s leisure and hospitality industry alone shed more than 230,000 jobs in the past year.

And unemployment in California is likely not to improve soon, as cases of the virus have surged in recent weeks and relatively strict lockdown measures are being enforced in much of the state.

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6. Bakersfield, CA
> Sept. 2020 unemployment rate: 13.7%
> 1 yr. employment change: -9.0%
> Largest industry: Government (24.6% of local jobs)
> Population: 900,202

Bakersfield is one of 12 metro areas in California to rank on this list. As is the case nationwide, workers in Bakersfield’s leisure and hospitality industry were the most likely to lose their job over the past year. Since September 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic effectively ground nonessential travel to a halt for several months, the number of people working in leisure and hospitality in the area fell by 26.6%.

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