PHOENIX — While much of Arizona saw progress in the employment arena during 2015, unemployment rates in Yuma reportedly reached 18 percent in December, making it the second-most jobless city in the nation.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases employment data monthly, and although some Yuma residents dispute the numbers, the farming city is consistently ranked near the top of unemployment lists.
National unemployment was down to 4.8 percent in December 2015, showing signs of broad overall recovery from the Great Recession. But 24/7 Wall St. pointed to agricultural business woes and a bruised housing market to explain high unemployment in cities like Yuma.
“We’re really tired of talking about the unemployment rate because it’s not reflective of this community,” Julie Engel, CEO of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp. told Cronkite News.
Engel said some of the headlines proclaiming the high unemployment can be demoralizing, and there needs to be a shift in the Yuma area’s narrative to counter the negative perception.
With 19.6 percent of their citizens without jobs, El Centro, Calif. was the only metropolitan area with more unemployed Americans than Yuma. However, 24/7 Wall St. noted a silver lining in Yuma’s employment issue.
“Though the area’s unemployment rate is one of the worst in the country, it is improving. Unemployment has declined every year since 2013, when the city’s unemployment rate hit 23.5 percent,” the site wrote.
“It’s an extreme-weather area, an agricultural area, but there’s not much else we can really do to try to figure out what’s going on there,” Krolik told Cronkite News in 2012. “At some point, you just become so accustomed to it that it becomes a fact on the ground, something that’s out of mind.”
Krolik said skeptics of the high unemployment rate often speculate that the bureau has not calculated the figure properly, but the bureau stands by its information.
Cronkite News’s Stefan Modrich contributed to this article.