The American public is regularly bombarded with the gloomy national jobless rate (down to 8.6 percent in November). But the situation in your local area is far more relevant to most Americans, and unemployment numbers vary vastly by city. Indeed, some Americans are living in a near Depression, while others, like the residents of oil-soaked North Dakota, are enjoying an unemployment rate at a sunny 3.5 percent (along with some unpleasant side effects).
Job search aggregator Indeed.com looks at the 50 largest metropolitan areas each month, counts up the job postings, and cross references those with the city's unemployment rate, as listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The result: The number of job seekers per opening, or a rough sketch of the worst cities in which to launch a job hunt right now.
Here are the worst 10, as reported by Forbes:
10. Orlando, Fla.
Number of job seekers per opening: 2.11
Orlando faced big layoffs because of the popped housing bubble, as well as a squeezed hospitality sector. Orlando has the largest number of hotel rooms in the country, after Las Vegas, and there were just fewer families flocking to Disney World after the recession hit.
9. St. Louis
Number of job seekers per opening: 2.12
St. Louis has endured a much slower recovery than other cities. Some think a larger trend is to blame: the decline of sturdy union jobs in manufacturing, and the rise of service jobs at a lower pay.
8. Rochester, N.Y.
Number of job seekers per opening: 2.31
This city in upstate New York has long been known as a pocket of affluence, the high-tech home of big companies like Kodak, Bausch & Lomb and Xerox, and the U.S. metro with a population of over 1 million that had the highest quality of life, according to Expansion Management magazine in 2007. But these big tech companies have been cutting jobs big time, and not just in the recession's wake. Rochester has been called a declining city for almost 10 years.
7. Memphis, Tenn.
Number of job seekers per opening: 2.33
Memphis has a very low high school graduation rate, and a large percentage of low-skilled workers, and so there are fewer qualified people to fill the growing education and health services sectors. Transportation is by far the biggest industry in Memphis, and as it shrank year after year, the city felt each blow.
6. Sacramento, Calif.
Number of job seekers per opening: 2.70
The real estate market seriously soured in Sacramento, like many other Sunbelt cities, and with a crippling budget deficit, California has been shedding state jobs, mostly concentrated in the Sacramento area.
Number of job seekers per opening: 2.75
Last year, Detroit's mayor and other local leaders estimated that half of the city's population was unemployed, if you were to include disillusioned job seekers who have given up their search, and part-time workers looking for a full-time gig. Only 16 percent of adult residents 25 and older have a bachelor's degree, according to one recent study, and jobs in the area increasingly demand high-skilled workers.
4. Las Vegas
Number of job seekers per opening: 3.10
Las Vegas was the fastest-growing city of the past decade. Houses were bought and built in a frenzy; but with construction the state's biggest industry, a recession was bound to do a lot of damage. Las Vegas also depends on Americans' free-wheeling attitude toward cash. People are still very wary, it seems, about putting $500 on red.
3. Riverside, Calif.
Number of job seekers per opening: 3.25
Riverside is another sunbelt city recovering at low speed, thanks most likely to the acute housing crisis that rattled it to the economic core.
2. Los Angeles
Number of job seekers per opening: 3.48
Foreclosures were also high here, and finance and housing workers continued losing jobs even during the so-called "recovery." The L.A. economy also relies on entertainment and tourism, but movie-making and TV production wound down in the recession, as did vacationing to our nation's sunny coasts. These things, however, are trending up.
Number of job seekers per opening: 4.37
Miami was struck badly by the housing crisis. It had the fifth highest foreclosure rate in 2010 (172,000 filings), and by the end of the year, almost half the houses were worth less than the mortgage on them. Miami-Dade county's unemployment is sitting sturdily in the double digits, but witnessed a big drop last month, and is now at 10.8 percent, down from 13.5 percent in June.
These numbers may be dreary, but at least they're much better than the figures compiled by the job search engine Juju.com last year, which had Las Vegas leading the list at nine job seekers per listing. That's a worse probability than getting admitted to CalTech.