The level of unemployment in America has been through dizzying changes in the past two and a half years. In February 2020, unemployment dropped to 3.5%, among the lowest levels in recent history. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed that up to 14.7%. In the time between the reports, the U.S. lost 20 million jobs. It took until recently for those to be recovered. Last month, the unemployment rate was 3.8%.
The unemployment level varies significantly from state to state. The city with the highest jobless rate last month was Yuma, Arizona, at 21%. It has been hit by the perfect storm of a poor mix of local industries, a poor population and the drought that has spread across most of the region. No other city has such a negative combination of factors.
The monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics report that covers America’s 389 metropolitan statistical areas showed that the jobless rate dropped in 384 of them. The jobs recovery is underway in almost every part of the nation. Several cities had extraordinarily low unemployment, some under 2%. In Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont; Fargo, North Dakota and Minnesota; and Mankato-North Mankato, Minnesota, the figure was 1.7%.
Yuma’s unemployment rate was not only the highest in the nation. It grew by the largest percentage compared to August 2021, up 4.4% year over year. There were 21,161 people out of work last month in Yuma, out of a total working population of 105,518.
Yuma is poor. The median household income is $52,183, well below the national number, according to the Census Bureau. Unemployment is 16.7%, which is well above the national figure.
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Drought levels in the area are not only high, but they also have been at one of the highest levels given to geographic areas by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The forecast for the group is that the problem could persist at current levels. Yuma is near the southern border of California, where the trouble also has been persistent.
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Part of the Yuma employment base is stable. Among the largest employers are the military and the government. However, the largest industry is agriculture, which has been decimated by a lack of rain.
The formula for Yuma’s job problem will not get any better. The city will remain among those with the highest unemployment in the country.
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