HAIL YUMA: The Most Unemployed City In America

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THE DAILY: With more than 350 cloudless days and less than 3 inches of rain per year, this boiling-hot border town is often billed as the driest, sunniest city in the nation. Now Yuma can add a grimmer distinction to the list: America’s most unemployed city. Local joblessness stands at 27.9 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics — worse than the nationwide rate at the depth of the Great Depression in 1933. “This isn’t something you just see in the paper,” said Julie Engel, president of the city’s economic development corporation. “There isn’t a person in Yuma that hasn’t been affected by a layoff, either personally or through a family member.” While some of the problem stems from the city’s historically seasonal economy, Yuma’s new jobless are suffering under the same forces wreaking havoc nationwide — cycles of layoffs, closures and downsizing as America copes with the worst economy in more than a generation. People with education and experience that once qualified them for middle or upper management are finding themselves lucky to even land jobs in fast food. And a few workers at the bottom of Yuma’s labor pool are finding themselves on the streets. “I sleep down by the river,” George Clark, 54, explained matter-of-factly as he sheltered under a shade tree beside Yuma’s public library. MORE

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