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The Worst Job Markets in the U.S.

Holly Mascaro



While the number of jobs in the United States continues to grow, several areas of the country still seriously suffer. The following states and cities remain at the bottom of the job market barrel:

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FLORIDA: Palm Coast, Vero Beach, Port St. Lucie

Known for its vacationers and retirees, Florida is also home to many unemployed residents. The state serves as a prime example of how intimately linked the job and housing markets remain. Before the housing bubble burst, Florida abounded with high-priced homes, which are now nearly impossible to sell. The state’s bad housing market limit’s residents’ ability to relocate to greener employment pastures, anchoring them to a stalled economic climate. While larger cities have improved since the start of the recession, the Palm Coast, Vero Beach, and Port St. Lucie areas possess approximate unemployment rates of 10 percent, 9.4 percent, and 9.2 percent, respectively, as of August, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

CALIFORNIA: Merced, Visalia, Yuba City, Stockton, Modesto

Perhaps the state’s sunny appeal has backfired — with remarkably high applicants-to-listings ratios, California’s supply simply cannot match demand. San Diego offers roughly one job for every four applicants, while cities like Sacramento and Los Angeles are up to one in five and one in six, respectively. Like in Florida, California’s tough job market directly reflects the state’s declined housing market. Related industries, such as real estate, banking, and insurance, have all been affected. Areas strung along outside of San Francisco and Sacramento remain among the worst hit, including Merced, Visalia, Yuba City, Stockton, and Modesto all at 11.9 percent unemployment or higher, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor.

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NEVADA: Las Vegas, Carson City, Reno

Nevada’s housing market fell further than that of any other U.S. state, with houses on average selling for a whopping 46.6 percent lower in 2012 than they did in 2007. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the state’s overall unemployment rate tops the chart at 9.5 percent, with the Las Vegas area weighing in at 9.6 percent and Carson City and Reno at 9.4 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively. Any available jobs tend to offer lower wages and worse hours than would be the case if the market wasn’t so flooded and the competition so tough.


Although Michigan’s housing market has recovered significantly from its initial crash, the state’s job market has sunk for a more dire and specific reason: Detroit. The once-booming city was home to the country’s automotive industry, an industry that has changed and declined so drastically that Detroit was recently forced to officially declare bankruptcy. A quarter-million people have moved away in the process, significantly shrinking the amount of tax money feeding back into the municipality. Remaining residents struggle under a 9.8 percent unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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NEW JERSEY: Bridgeton, Atlantic City, Camden

Hit heavily by the financial crisis, New Jersey received a second economic blow with Hurricane Sandy. The superstorm affected both the housing market as well as the state’s heavily relied-upon tourism income from the Jersey Shore. Because Jersey’s shore functions only as a seasonal source of income (versus the year-round tourism benefitting neighbor New York), the decrease in patrons and damage to boardwalks and beaches also translated to limited job growth. The state’s dependence on construction jobs also hinders long-term solutions, as the industry presents primarily temporary or part-time employment.

Across the United States, however, conditions are ultimately improving (including in the states mentioned above), and hopefully the margin of difference will continue to shrink between those areas at the bottom of the list and those at the top.

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