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15 Cities With the Highest Unemployment Rates in 2021

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Filterbuy.

The U.S. job market has made great strides in its recovery since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, the unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.7%, the highest it’s been since the Great Depression.

But since the spring of 2020, the unemployment rate has fallen steadily and currently stands below 4%, just slightly higher than the pre-pandemic rate of 3.5%. While all sectors of the economy were impacted by the pandemic and shutdowns in early 2020, some parts of the economy have bounced back more quickly than others.

For example, while the unemployment rate could reach pre-pandemic levels by this summer, the labor force participation rate continues to lag behind. In February 2020, the labor force participation rate was 63.4%. After dropping sharply in the early stages of the pandemic and then partially recovering, it is still nearly a full percentage point below the pre-pandemic level.

There are several reasons for reduced labor force participation. Many older workers decided to retire early during the pandemic and are unlikely to return. Nearly 1 million Americans, many of whom were part of the workforce, have died from COVID-19, and millions more are suffering from what has come to be known as long COVID and are unable to work. Additionally, school and daycare closures have forced many parents to leave their jobs due to caregiving responsibilities.

Besides reduced labor force participation, some industries, particularly ones that are highly reliant on face-to-face interactions, remained hindered in 2021.

To determine the U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest overall unemployment rates in 2021, researchers at Filterbuy analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The researchers ranked metros according to the average annual unemployment rate in 2021. You can read more about our methodology at the end.

Following are the metros with the highest unemployment rates in 2021.

15. Memphis, TN-MS-AR

Memphis Tennessee
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 5.9%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 37,975

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -2.9

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +1.7

14. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

Cleveland, Ohio
Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 5.9%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 59,744

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -3.9

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +1.7

13. Pittsburgh, PA

mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 6.1%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 71,379

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -3.1

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +1.7

12. Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, CA

Sacramento, California
Ed Gavryush / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 6.2%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 67,659

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -2.5

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +2.5

11. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

Aerial view of downtown Detroit
Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 6.2%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 131,597

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -5.3

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +2.0

10. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA

The skyline of San Diego, where median rent is well below median mortgage payments
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Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 6.3%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 96,330

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -2.9

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +3.0

9. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at dusk
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 6.3%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 192,279

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -2.9

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +2.2

8. Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT

The skyline of Hartford Connecticut, where median rents are relatively low
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 6.6%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 38,793

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -1.1

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +3.0

7. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

Houston, Texas skyline
Silvio Ligutti / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 6.6%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 226,911

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -2.0

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +2.8

6. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

DuSable bridge at twilight, Chicago.
Oleg Podzorov / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 6.8%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 320,395

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -3.1

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +2.9

5. New Orleans-Metairie, LA

New Orleans, Louisiana at night
f11 photography / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 7.1%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 41,476

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -2.6

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +2.8

4. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

Riverside California neighborhood
Matt Gush / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 7.2%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 150,179

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -2.5

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +3.1

3. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

New York City coastline
IM_photo / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 7.7%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 745,984

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -2.7

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +4.1

2. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV

Las Vegas by night, with mountains
egd / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 8.3%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 92,877

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -6.4

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +4.2

1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

Los Angeles smoky skyline
J Dennis / Shutterstock.com

Average annual unemployment rate in 2021: 8.7%

Average number of unemployed workers in 2021: 576,693

Change in unemployment rate since 2020 (percentage points): -3.1

Change in unemployment rate since 2019 (percentage points): +4.5

Methodology

Man using too much data on his phone, tablet and laptop
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To determine the locations with the highest overall unemployment rate in 2021, researchers at Filterbuy analyzed the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Local Area Unemployment Statistics. The researchers ranked locations according to the average annual unemployment rate in 2021. In the event of a tie, the location with the larger average number of unemployed workers in 2021 was ranked higher.

Researchers also calculated the change in unemployment rate since 2020, and the change in unemployment rate since 2019. To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 residents were included.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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