This Labor Day, These Cities Have the Highest Unemployment Rate in the U.S.

Unemployment is at a 30-year low in the U.S., which has many people – including President Donald Trump – cheering. The number of people who don’t have a job but are looking for work fell to 3.9% in July 2018.

Compare that to October 2009, when 10% of Americans were out of work. At the height of the recession, more than 15 million people were without a job, compared to 6.3 million today. Many people would say that’s a reason to celebrate this Labor Day.

Now hiring sign
A store advertises that they are hiring on June 1, 2018, in New York, New York. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

But low unemployment numbers are masking some less rosy realities, say some. The official jobless rate doesn’t include the more than 500,000 people who’ve simply given up on finding a job and dropped out of the workforce. Nor does it reflect the 4.6 million part-time workers who’d prefer full-time work but can’t find it. Jobless rates are also higher for blacks, at 6.6%, and Hispanics, at 4.5%.

The employment situation also varies significantly from place to place. The state-level unemployment rates range from a low of 2.1% in Iowa to a high of 6.9% in Alaska. The differences are even more dramatic when you look at the biggest cities in the U.S. In two dozen metro areas, the unemployment rate is still above 6%.

The cities with the highest unemployment

The 10 cities with the highest unemployment rate in July 2018 were:

  • McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas: 6.9%
  • Madera, California: 7%
  • Vineland-Bridgeton, New Jersey: 7%
  • Fresno, California: 7.2%
  • Hanford-Corcoran, California: 7.5%
  • Merced, California: 8.1%
  • Bakersfield, California: 8.2%
  • Visalia-Porterville, California: 9.3%
  • El Centro, California: 19.3%
  • Yuma, Arizona: 20.9%

Why is unemployment so high in places like Yuma, a city of a little less than 100,000 in the far southwestern corner of Arizona? One reason might be that many jobs are seasonal, noted Vox in a 2014 report. At that point, the unemployment rate was even higher – 28% in August 2014. Seasonal farm work also helps to explain the high unemployment rate in several other cities on the list, like Merced, Visalia, and Madera.

The cities with the lowest unemployment

Des Moines skyline at sunset
Des Moines has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. | iStock

The situation is reversed in the following 12 cities, which have the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S.

  • Rochester, Minnesota: 2.3%
  • Mankato-North Mankato, Minnesota: 2.3%
  • Idaho Falls, Idaho: 2.3%
  • Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa: 2.3%
  • Midland, Texas: 2.2%
  • Fargo, North Dakota: 2.2%
  • Dubuque, Iowa: 2.2%
  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota: 2.1%
  • Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii: 2.1%
  • Iowa City, Iowa: 2.1%
  • Urban Honolulu, Hawaii: 2%
  • Ames, Iowa: 1.8%

This list is dominated by cities in the Midwest. For these lucky locales, low unemployment might seem like an ideal economic situation, not everyone thinks so. In Iowa, which has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, there are too many jobs and not enough people to fill them, reported the Wall Street Journal. Companies say that a lack of workers is hurting the bottom line.

In fact, there are so many open jobs across the Midwest that even if every unemployed person in the region found a position, there would still be roughly 180,000 openings, according to the WSJ. It’s the only region of the country with that kind of imbalance.

The takeaway? If you need work, it might be time to move to Iowa.

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