Nationwide, 4.4% of the American labor force is unemployed, a large improvement from the recessionary unemployment peak of 9.9% in 2010. In the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro area, the unemployment rate of 4.3% is roughly similar to the national figure and far lower than the city’s recessionary peak unemployment rate of 11.1%.
The industry composition within a city can have a major impact on its job market. Nationwide, 6.3% of American leisure and hospitality workers are unemployed, the largest share of any U.S. industry. Meanwhile, just 2.2% of federal, state, and local government workers are unemployed, the lowest jobless rate of any industry. In Chicago, 10.5% of all workers are employed in the leisure and hospitality industry, and 11.8% of workers are employed in government. By comparison, 11.1% of American workers nationwide work in leisure and hospitality, and 15.1% work in government.
Compared to less urban areas, cities tend to have more diversified economies, which may preserve the health of the job market to some extent if one major industry struggles. While many of the cities with less diverse economies have one industry accounting for more than 30% of employment, in Chicago the largest industry, trade, transportation, and utilities, accounts for 20.0% of total employment.
While the Chicago metro area’s unemployment rate has improved since the recession, the city’s economy has contracted in the process. As the unemployment rate fell by 6.8 percentage points since 2010, the size of the Chicago labor force decreased by 62,059 workers. Many of those who left the area likely did so seeking employment elsewhere.
Large cities often attract college graduates, and as a result may weather recessions better and recover from periods of high unemployment faster. While the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is 25.3% in metropolitan areas with less than 250,000 residents, the college attainment rate in cities with more than 2.5 million residents is 36.2%. In the Chicago metro area, which is home to 9.6 million people, 36.0% of adults have a bachelor’s degree.