Best and Worst Cities and Fields to Snag a Job

snag a jobSo, the unemployment rate ticked up a notch from 9.5 to 9.6. The government laid off 121,000 people -- mostly temporary Census workers -- while the private-sector added 67,000 new jobs. That still leaves about 14.9 million people unemployed -- one in ten, to be exact. More than the entire population of Los Angeles, New York and Chicago combined.

The stock market actually rose on that news, with some analysts seeing it as a positive sign that the job loss numbers weren't higher. Still, unemployment rates were higher in July than a year earlier in 192 of the 372 metropolitan areas, and lower in only 170 areas. They were unchanged in 10 areas, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seventeen areas recorded jobless rates of at least 15.0 percent, while only 6 areas registered rates below 5.0 percent.

So which cities hold the best prospects, and which should you avoid, if at all possible? The answers to these questions will surprise you, and make a strong case for leaving dense urban areas in general, and the entire state of California in particular. Among the 17 areas with jobless rates of at least 15.0 percent, 12 were located in California.

First, the Good News...

The following Metropolitan areas have the best news, or more accurately, the least bad news:

Bismarck, North Dakota registered the lowest unemployment rate in July, 3.1 percent. Fargo, North Dakota had the second lowest unemployment rate in July, at 3.7 percent. Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana registered the largest over-the-year jobless rate decrease, down 3.2 percentage points.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria had the lowest unemployment rates of any large urban center, which is 6.3 percent, still not as low as the less populated areas listed above. The same area also gained the largest number of jobs, adding 41,800.

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, has the third lowest jobless rate, at 6.8 percent highlighting once again the fact that it may be cold in the West North Central division, but the job market is as hot as it gets in the US right now. All six areas with jobless rates of less than 5.0 percent were located in that area.

Missoula, Montana experienced the largest over-the-year percentage gain in employment for smaller metro areas, up 7.9 percent. Ocean City, N.J. came next, up 5.9 percent and Manhattan, Kansas was up +4.5 percent and Lawton, Okla. was up 4.2 percent. That's relatively more good news from small towns.

Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas was the large area with the biggest over-the-year percentage increase in employment, up 2.5 percent and adding 18,600 jobs. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington also had good numbers, up 1.1 percent and adding 31,300 jobs.

And Now, the Bad News...

Some parts of the nation, like the Las Vegas and Detroit areas, just can't seem to catch a break. July was especially cruel to:

El Centro, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz., again recorded the highest unemployment rates for areas with populations of under 1 million, at 30.3 and 28.7 percent, respectively. This is partially because they are big agricultural areas, and in July it's just too darn hot for people to be working out in the fields.

Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Mich., and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. were the metropolitan areas with a population of 1 million or more that registered the highest unemployment rates in July, 15.2 and 15.1 percent, respectively.

Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., experienced the largest rate over the year increase from July 2009, up 1.8 percentage points. Jacksonville, Fla. came next, followed by Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla., all up 1.2 percentage points. Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, Calif. also experienced one of the highest over-the-year increases, adding 1.1 points.

Chicago-Joliet-Naperville lost the most jobs, down 70,800. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont came next, losing 42,800 jobs, and New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island followed, with minus 28,900 jobs. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario lost 22,800 jobs.

Lake County-Kenosha County, which includes parts of Illinois and Wisconsin, proves that not all smaller town areas are booming. It had the largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment, down 3.4 percent. It was followed by Oakland-Fremont- Hayward, Calif., which is down 2.4 percent, and San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif., which is down 2.1 percent.

Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Mich., is down 1.7 percent.

Don't despair if you're living in one of these unfortunate areas, however. If you're in the health care or construction industries, things are looking up, according to a statement made by Keith Hall, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He says that health care added 28,000 jobs last month, and construction added 19,000. Unfortunately, however, he also notes that manufacturing lost 27,000.

And employment in the nonprofit sector is increasing, surprisingly enough. According to research done by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies, nonprofit employment actually grew by 2.5 percent, while for-profit employment diminished by 3.3 percent over the same time period, in the geographic areas studied.

"That nonprofit organizations have been able to increase employment in the face of the most severe recession since the Great Depression is a testament to the effectiveness of the federal stimulus program and to the resilience and determination of nonprofit leaders and those who support them in the public and private sectors," said Lester M. Salamon, study author and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies. "But this accomplishment, impressive though it is, still leaves many needs unmet and many organizations and regions under severe strain."

Your takeaway from that? If you're out of work and have a little time on your hands, volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. Who knows? It just might lead to gainful employment.

Next: Can't Get a Job? 10 Best States to Look >>

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