Unemployment rates rose in all the largest U.S. metropolitan areas in May for the fifth straight month, and are likely to keep marching higher this year, a potential obstacle to a hoped-for economic recovery.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that jobless rates in May rose from a year earlier in all 372 metropolitan area it tracks.
The unemployment rate in Kokomo, Ind., jumped to 18.8 percent, up 11.7 percentage points from a year ago, the largest increase of all metro areas. The second-highest increase occurred in Indiana's Elkhart-Goshen, where the rate rose to 17.5 percent. That's up 11.4 percentage points from a year earlier.
Both parts of Indiana have been slammed by layoffs in transportation equipment manufacturing. Elkhart-Goshen has suffered layoffs at RV makers Monaco Coach Corp., Keystone RV Co. and Pilgrim International.
The other metro areas posting large gains were: Bend, Ore., where the jobless rate rose to 15.2 percent, an increase of 8.8 percentage points; and North Carolina's Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton saw its unemployment rate rise to 15.4 percent, a gain of 8.5 percentage points.
A common thread running through most of the regions that have been hard hit is the loss of manufacturing jobs. The collapse of the housing market has especially hurt jobs at factories that produce building materials and household goods, such as carpets, flooring, appliances and furniture. In addition, the global recession has cut into demand from customers both at home and abroad for a wide range of goods.
El Centro, Calif., again posted the highest unemployment rate in the country — 26.8 percent. Unemployment there is notoriously high because of many seasonal farm workers without jobs. Following behind were: Yuma, Ariz., with a jobless rate of 23.3 percent; and Kokomo at 18.8 percent.
The U.S. unemployment rate climbed to a quarter-century high of 9.4 percent in May.
Many economists predict it will rose to 9.6 percent in June. The government releases the new national employment report on Thursday. If they are right, it would mark the highest jobless rate since 10.1 percent in June 1983, when the country was trying to recover from a severe recession.
The U.S. unemployment rate is expected to hit 10 percent by the end of this year. It could rise as high as 11 percent by the next summer before it starts to decline. The highest rate since World War II was 10.8 percent at the end of 1982.
On the metro front, the news wasn't much better when comparing jobless rates in May to April. The figures aren't seasonally adjusted, so making monthly comparisons can be more volatile.
The unemployment rates rose in 46 of the largest 49 metro areas. Two of the rates showed no change — in Denver and Minneapolis. But only one — in Buffalo-Niagara Falls — showed a decline, dipping to 8.3 percent from 8.5 percent.
Among the bright spots was Bismarck, N.D., which registered May's lowest jobless rate of 3.5 percent. North Dakota has been helped by the oil business. Bismarck was followed by Iowa City, Iowa, home of the University of Iowa, with an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, and Ames, Iowa, at 3.8 percent.