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Places Where Unemployment Has Increased the Most During COVID-19 – 2020 Study


The U.S. unemployment rate rose nationally by 11.2 percentage points between February 2020 and April 2020, from 3.5% to 14.7%. While unemployment has risen throughout the country, compromising job security and savings for so many, some places have seen much larger spikes over that two-months period. SmartAsset looked at the metro areas where unemployment has increased the most during COVID-19.

In this study, we compared February 2020 and April 2020 unemployment rates for all 389 U.S. metro areas and found the percentage point increase in unemployment in each place. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Unemployment rose by more than 25 percentage points in seven metro areas. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii; Kokomo, Indiana; Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada; Atlantic City-Hammonton, New Jersey; Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana; Flint, Michigan and Muskegon, Michigan all saw unemployment increase to levels around or exceeding 30% in April 2020. Their increases all surpass 25 percentage points, as the average unemployment rate in February 2020 for those places was 3.9%.
  • Many Michigan metro areas have been hit hard. Six of the 11 metro areas where unemployment has increased the most during COVID-19 are in Michigan. They include Flint, Muskegon, Monroe, Saginaw, Battle Creek and Jackson. If you are a Wolverine State resident seeking financial relief, be sure to check out our guide on coronavirus relief programs in Michigan.
  • Connecticut fares well but still faces challenges. Of the six total metro areas in Connecticut in the study, five rank in the 10 places where unemployment has increased the least during COVID-19. However, despite their favorable position on the bottom of this list, unemployment still rose by more than three percentage points in all of those areas. In New Haven, Connecticut – the metro area where unemployment increased the least – there was still a 3.1-percentage-point increase from 4.1% in February 2020 to 7.2% in April 2020.

 1. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI

Between February 2020 and April 2020, the unemployment rate in the Kahului, Hawaii metro area rose the most of all 389 U.S. metro areas. In February, unemployment there was below the national average, at 2.7%. However, with travel and tourism industries largely grinding to a halt during the pandemic, unemployment in the Kahului metro area spiked up to 35.0% in April – the highest rate for this metric of any metro area in the study.

2. Kokomo, IN

Located in the North Central region of Indiana, Kokomo ranks as the second metro area where unemployment has increased the most during COVID-19. Over the past two months, the unemployment rate in Kokomo rose by 30.3 percentage points, from 3.8% in February to 34.1% in April.

3. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV

In our March 2020 study, we predicted that Nevada and large cities within the state were some of the places most likely to be affected by a COVID-19 recession. In line with that prognostication, unemployment in Nevada’s largest metro area, Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, has risen significantly. In February 2020, fewer than one in 20 workers was unemployed. In April, close to one in three workers in the metro area was unemployed.

4. Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ

Like the Las Vegas metro area, the Atlantic City, New Jersey metro area is a popular resort spot known for its casinos. Unemployment was previously high in the Atlantic City metro area relative to other places. It had the 19th-highest February 2020 unemployment rate in the study, at 6.4%. However, with unemployment increasing by 26.9 percentage points, the Atlantic City metro area’s most recent unemployment figure is now the fourth-highest in the U.S., at 33.3%.

5. Elkhart-Goshen, IN

In both February and March 2020, the unemployment rate in the Elkhart, Indiana metro area was 2.7%. Over the course of a single month between March and April, the unemployment rate rose by 26.6 percentage points, signifying a gross increase of 30,350 unemployed persons between February and April.

6. Flint, MI

Flint, Michigan is the fifth metro area in the study with an April 2020 unemployment rate exceeding 30%. Of the roughly 180,000 total workers in the labor force, close to 55,500 individuals were jobless, actively seeking work and available to take a job.

If you are unemployed and live in Michigan, be sure to apply for benefits. Michigan residents can apply for unemployment benefits here.

7. Muskegon, MI

Unemployment in the Muskegon, Michigan metro area rose by 25.5 percentage points between February 2020 and April 2020. In February, there were about 2,900 unemployed workers, and in April, that number surpassed 23,100.

8. Monroe, MI

The Monroe, Michigan metro area has the 10th-highest April 2020 unemployment rate in the country, but with a lower February 2020 rate, it saw the eighth-largest spike between the two months. In February 2020, unemployment in Monroe was at 3.4%. On June 3, the April 2020 unemployment rate was 25.8%.

9. Saginaw, MI

The Saginaw, Michigan metro area had the 106th-highest February 2020 unemployment rate out of all 389 metro areas in the study, but the 11th-highest April 2020 unemployment rate. Over those two months, unemployment rose 21.2 percentage points from 4.4% to 25.6%.

10. Battle Creek, MI (tie)

In the Battle Creek, Michigan metro area, unemployment increased by 21.0 percentage points during COVID-19 from February 2020 to April 2020. Some 12,621 individuals became jobless over that period.

10. Jackson, MI (tie)

The Jackson, Michigan metro area also saw a 21.0 percentage point increase in unemployment between February 2020 and April 2020. In February, fewer than 2,600 individuals in the area were jobless, while in April, close to 17,800 residents were unemployed.

Data and Methodology

Data for this report comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment Survey. To find the metro areas where unemployment has increased the most during COVID-19, we calculated the percentage point increase in the unemployment rate between February 2020 and April 2020. We ranked metro areas from those with the largest percentage point increase in unemployment to those with the smallest.

Tips for Making it Through a Recession

  • Boost your emergency savings. One of the best ways to prepare for the unknown is by having an emergency fund. Though typical financial wisdom suggests you should have savings that can cover three months’ worth of expenses, six months’ may be a better figure to shoot for during a recession. Check out our budget calculator to see how much you spend each month, what sixth months of expenses would look like and how cutting back on discretionary expenses can increase your savings rate.
  • If you did lose your job, know if you qualify for unemployment. Many unemployment benefits across states have been expanded as a result of the spread of coronavirus. Our guide on the Enhanced Unemployment Benefits for Coronavirus can help you figure out if you may be eligible for receiving a benefit and how much that benefit will be. If you are looking for more general information on the coronavirus and what the government is doing to help, check out our comprehensive guide here.
  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about how to ride out a financial downturn. If you are nervous about your retirement account or what to do with money you are making, talking to a financial advisor might not be a bad idea. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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