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35 cities suffer unemployment above 15%

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Unemployment rates continue to rise, with the majority of U.S. metropolitan areas showing an increase in January, according to a government report.

In fact, there were 35 metropolitan areas with unemployment rates at or above 15% in January. California and Michigan remain the hardest hit, with 19 cities in California showing rates above 15%, according to the Labor Department. Michigan logged the next highest number, with 6.

In December, there were 25 cities with jobless rates above 15%, most of which were also in California and Michigan.

Overall, jobless rates increased in 363 of the nation's 372 metropolitan areas in January. The number of metro areas with jobless rates above 10% reached 187 in January. Contrast that with the national unemployment rate, which stood at 9.7% in January, according to the government's monthly jobs report.

There were only 2 urban centers with rates below 5% in January. That compares with 10 areas that posted rates below 5% in December.

Spotlight on California

Friday's report highlights the ongoing job woes for the nation's most populous state. Unemployment increased in all but one of California's 27 metropolitan areas during January.

El Centro, the one city where the jobless rate fell, continues to have the highest rate in the nation, at 27.3%. Merced, Calif., had the second highest rate at 21.7%, followed by Yuba City, Calif., at 20.8%.

However, high unemployment rates in California's agricultural areas are not unusual since many seasonal farm workers collect unemployment for several months out of the year in those areas.

Still, the job market remains strained in parts of California where farming is not the main industry. Los Angeles, for example, suffered a jobless rate of 12.4% in January, compared with 11.3% the month before. A year ago, unemployment in LA was 9.8%

Meanwhile, all 15 of the metropolitan areas in Michigan reported higher jobless rates in January.

Michigan has suffered rising unemployment for several years as the state's manufacturing industry has gone into deep decline. In the Detroit metro area, unemployment rose to 15.6%.

Another city that has suffered from a prolonged job slump, Elkhart, Ind., reported a 15.6% unemployment rate in January. While that's still high, it marks an improvement over the 19.2% that the former auto-industry town posted a year ago.

Among the cities with comparatively low unemployment rates, many were located in North Dakota, Iowa and Kansas.

All four of the metro areas in North Dakota, for example, reported declines in the unemployment rate during January.  To top of page

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