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American cities losing the most jobs

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The worst of the unemployment woes may be over in Prescott, Ariz.

The economy has begun its slow recovery from the Great Recession, and with it, the labor market is showing signs of improving as well. The unemployment rate fell from 9.5 percent in June 2009 to 8.2 percent in June 2012. Like the country as a whole, most major metropolitan areas have begun to recover.

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Others, however, actually have taken a turn for the worse. Ten metro areas from all over the country had at least a 5 percent decrease in the number of employed people since the summer of 2009, when national unemployment was close to its worst point. 24/7 Wall St. looked at the 10 metropolitan areas with the largest decline in employment between June 2009, near the peak of the recession, and June 2012.

Of the 10 metro areas on our list, five are in California and the Southwest (Arizona, Utah or Nevada) -- parts of the country that were hit particularly hard by the subprime mortgage crisis. These states have had the highest unemployment rates in the country since the recession began, and they continue to founder today. In fact, for Nevada and California, things have gotten even worse relative to the rest of the country. Unemployment in Nevada has increased from 11.8 percent in June 2009 to 11.9 percent in June 2012, going from third worst in the country to the worst.

However, among the metropolitan areas with the biggest declines in the number of employed people, the unemployment rate has only increased substantially in a handful of these regions. In some cases, it actually declined. In St. George, Utah, for example, the unemployment rate has fallen from 9.9 percent in June 2009 to 7.6 percent in June 2012. The reason has to do with the number of people looking for work. In St. George, Prescott, Ariz., and Michigan City, Ind., the labor force -- comprised of the number of people employed and those looking for employment -- has fallen by more than 5 percent, as people have either given up their job search or have left the area.

The two metro regions with the largest decrease in employed residents -- Brunswick and Dalton -- are located in Georgia. While the two areas are nearly as far apart as areas can be and remain in the same state, both are a product of a worsening trend in the Peach State. In June 2009, unemployment in Georgia was 10.5 percent, the 14th highest rate in the country. As of June of this year, the rate has only slightly decreased to 9.6 percent, making it the eighth worst in the country.

In some of the regions on our list, many of the jobs were lost in the past 12 months alone. Dalton, Ga., lost roughly 4,400 jobs over the past three years, but more than 2,800 of those jobs were lost between June 2011 and June 2012. In other regions very few jobs were lost last year. Prescott, Ariz., lost 5,140 jobs in the past three years, but just 137 of those were lost in the past recorded 12 months.

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To find the 10 metropolitan areas with the highest percentage decrease in the number of employed people, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data for 374 metropolitan areas from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We considered the number and percentage change in the total employed and unemployed, and the labor force, which is the combination of those two groups. We also looked at the changes in the past 12 months, between June 2011 and June 2012, to determine if these changes were recent. The BLS also provided data about the types of jobs people are employed in as of June 2012. We often compared those figures to the state as a whole.

These are the 10 cities losing the most jobs.

1. Dalton, Ga.

  •  Percent decrease of employed: -8 percent
  •  Decrease in people employed: -4,446 (19th largest)
  •  June 2009 unemployment rate: 12.7 percent (43rd highest)
  •  June 2012 unemployment rate: 12.3 percent (19th highest)

Dalton’s unemployment rate is 2.7 percentage points higher than the unemployment rate of Georgia, and 4 percentage points higher than the national average. One of the many private employers laying people off in Dalton is Shaw Industries. In October, 2011, the Dalton Daily Citizen announced that the carpeting manufacturer was planning to shut its Dalton plant down by the end of the year and cut 270 jobs. Beaulieu Group, a floor manufacturer, also shut down two plants in the area that together accounted for 320 jobs. A depressed housing market can be blamed for these closures. Government funding also has been cut back in the region, meaning more layoffs and furloughs. The Health Department kept its offices closed two Fridays a month in the first half of the year due to declining state and local funding.

2. Brunswick, Ga.

  •  Percent decrease of employed: -6.1 percent
  •  Decrease in people employed: -2,991 (31st largest)
  •  June 2009 unemployment rate: 9.4 percent (180th lowest)
  •  June 2012 unemployment rate: 10.5 percent (44th lowest)

Between 2009 and 2012, 2,695 people in Brunswick stopped working or looking for work, thereby reducing the size of the labor force by 5 percent. Additionally, even as the labor force shrank, the number of people in the labor force who were unemployed rose from 5,039 in June 2009 to 5,335 in June 2012. This combination of a shrinking labor force and growing unemployment resulted in 2,991 jobs lost -- one of the larger decreases in the nation. However, the city’s employment loss trends began to reverse themselves in the most recent year, as Brunswick added 373 jobs and the number of unemployed workers fell by 234.

3. Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

  •  Percent decrease of employed: -5.8 percent
  •  Decrease in people employed: -6,241 (13th largest)
  •  June 2009 unemployment rate: 8.7 percent (160th lowest)
  •  June 2012 unemployment rate: 9.1 percent (114th highest)

One of two state college towns on the list, Champaign-Urbana lost 800 government jobs between June 2011 and June 2012. One of the private employers laying people off is Archer Daniels Midland Co. Due to lower corn and bean yields, the company does not have enough work to contract workers through Zachry Construction.

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4. Prescott, Ariz.

  •  Percent decrease of employed: -5.8 percent
  •  Decrease in people employed: -5,140 (15th largest)
  •  June 2009 unemployment rate: 10.4 percent (121st highest)
  •  June 2012 unemployment rate: 8.7 percent (148th highest)

In the past three years, the number of people employed has dropped dramatically in Prescott from 89,328 workers in 2009 to just 84,188 by 2012. This was part of a larger decline in the size of Prescott’s labor force, which shrank by 7.5 percent between 2009 and 2012, the fourth-largest contraction in the nation over that time. However, the worst may be over as the number of workers in Prescott declined by just 137, or 0.2 percent, between June 2011 and June 2012. In June 2012, just three of 10 sectors had year-over-year declines in employment -- government, education and health -- and other services sectors each lost about 100 jobs.

5. Michigan City-LaPorte, Ind.

  •  Percent decrease of employed: -5.7 percent
  •  Decrease in people employed: -2,728 (35th largest)
  •  June 2009 unemployment rate: 12.1 percent (54th highest)
  •  June 2012 unemployment rate: 9.7 percent (74th highest)

In 2011, the LaPorte hospital laid off more than 100 workers because of a weak economy and the swelling number of uninsured patients. The increase in the number of uninsured people is not surprising given the number of job losses in the area over the past couple of years. This summer, Federal-Mogul Corp., an automobile parts maker, is closing down a factory and moving its production to Mexico in an effort to cut costs and save money, resulting in the loss of 100 jobs by the end of the year. This is not the only manufacturing company to close down or lay off workers in the area. Other companies include Weil-McLain and Sullair.

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