News Column

Yuma Leads Nation in Unemployment

August 29, 2013

Unemployment rates fell in two-thirds of large U.S. metropolitan areas in July, a sign of widespread improvement in the nation's job market, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.

The news was much grimmer for Yuma, which continues to hold the distinction of having the highest jobless rate among 372 metro areas across the nation. Even more discouraging, Yuma also had the largest over-the-year jobless rate increase of 2.5 percentage points, according to the report.

Yuma's unemployment rate in July reached 34.5 percent, with 33,259 people unemployed out of a civilian labor force of 96,485. In July 2012, Yuma County's unemployment was 32 percent.

Neighboring El Centro has the second highest unemployment rate at 26.1 percent in July. The community also had the largest over-the-year unemployment rate decrease in July of 4 percentage points.

The two areas, home to many migrant farm workers, are perennially at the top of the list, the report noted.

Yuma County's unemployment has been on an uphill trend since spring. June's unemployment rate was 31.9 percent, up from May's rate of 30.7 percent. The rate was 30.4 percent in April and 25.9 percent in March.

Meanwhile, nationwide, unemployment was lower in July than a year earlier in 239 of the 372 metropolitan areas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Rates rose in 103 metro areas and were unchanged in 30 for the month.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell last month to a 4 1/2-year low of 7.4 percent. That's down from 7.6 percent in June. Employers added 162,000 jobs. That's enough to lower the unemployment rate but below the average monthly gain of 192,000 this year.

Fewer cities are reporting unusually high unemployment rates. Forty-one cities reported a rate above 10 percent last month, down from 67 a year earlier.

At the same time, 34 cities had unemployment rates below 5 percent, nearly double the 18 in July 2012.

Some of the biggest declines were in resort cities, where unemployment likely fell because summer hiring picked up. Unlike the national data, the metro figures aren't adjusted for such seasonal patterns. That can make the local figures more volatile.

Ocean City, N.J., recorded the biggest drop last month. The rate fell to 8.4 percent from 10 percent.

Bismarck, N.D., had the nation's lowest unemployment rate at 2.5 percent. Sioux Falls, S.D., had the second lowest at 3 percent, followed by Fargo, N.D., at 3.3 percent. The two states have benefited from an oil and gas drilling boom.


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