The 10 Worst Cities for Job Seekers

Cities in California and Florida make up the bulk of the list.

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Perhaps the best way to view the current U.S. jobs situation is with guarded optimism. Unemployment has dropped from its peak, but slowly and unevenly. The economy continues to add jobs, but hourly wages have posted recent drops. Health and education are seeing employment growth, but construction and the public-sector are also shedding jobs. For would-be workers in some U.S. cities, however, optimism may be out of the question. Data shows that some metropolitan areas, led by several large cities in California and Florida, are experiencing particularly difficult job market recoveries.

[See a slide show of the 10 worst cities to look for a job.]

According to Paul Forster, CEO and founder of job search website Indeed.com, cities whose economies rely heavily on recession-ravaged industries, like manufacturing, construction, and tourism, are having difficulties improving their employment situations. Las Vegas, which relies heavily on the leisure industry, and auto manufacturing center Detroit are two prime examples. Manufacturing lost over 2 million jobs from the start of 2008 through the end of 2009, and employment in the performing arts, as well as at tourist destinations like museums, historical sites, zoos, and parks, has recently shown only anemic growth, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [See what the latest drop in jobless claims means.]

But improvements are underway in many of these cities. Forster points out that, while the job situation in the hardest-hit cities may appear bleak, the statistics have shown marked improvement over the last 12 months. "Of the 10 cities with the most population per job posting, there are 62 percent more jobs on average than a year ago," says Forster, citing Miami as an example. In that city, the ratio of unemployed people to job postings in January was around 6:1. Now, that figure has dropped to just over 4:1. In addition, some of the most troubled areas of the economy are seeing upswings in job creation. Manufacturing has added nearly 200,000 jobs in the last year, and some areas of the leisure industry, like gambling, recreation, and food services, are also adding jobs.

According to a U.S. News analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and job search website indeed.com, these are the 10 U.S. metro areas in which it is the most difficult to get a job, out of the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas by population:

Rank Metropolitan Area Unemployment Rate Uemployed People per Job Posting
1. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. 13.9 3.75
2. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev. 13.3 3.38
3. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, Calif. 12.7 3.1
4. (tie) Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif. 11.4 3.55
4. (tie) Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla. 10.9 4.37
6. Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Mich. 11.8 2.99
7. Providence-Fall River-Warwick, R.I.-Mass. 11.9 2.25
8. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. 10.4 2.42
9. Jacksonville, Fla. 10.2 2.58
10. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. 11.0 2.18

The rankings were compiled using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' metropolitan-area unemployment figures, as well as figures from Indeed.com for job postings per unemployed person in each metro area. All figures reflect March 2011 data.

To bolster job market recovery, these cities may well also have to improve on the housing front. Many U.S. regions with difficult housing situations are also experiencing slumping job markets. Upper Midwestern states, like North and South Dakota, are among the states with the lowest jobless rates and the lowest foreclosure rates. Meanwhile, Florida, California, and Nevada--three states represented among the above 10 cities--all have high foreclosure and unemployment rates. [See 9 cities where home values didn't fall.]

This is because the job and housing markets are interlinked: gainful employment can help homeowners stave off foreclosure, but in areas that are already high-foreclosure, banks are likely to be wary about lending. When businesses in those cities cannot get loans, employment can suffer. Housing sector woes can also add to employment problems by limiting mobility. People stuck in homes that are not selling may not be able to move to places with better job prospects. [See a slide show of the 10 best cities to look for a job.]

The connection between jobs and housing is just one example of the larger complexities and uncertainties inherent to improving job markets, as well as the general economic health of any given city. But as the U.S. economy continues on its uneven plod towards to recovery, improvement will almost certainly be uneven geographically.