When jobs are scarce, it always helps not to have the deck stacked against you. Some places offer fewer opportunities, particularly for more educated members of the labor force.

In fact, according to a study released by the Brookings Institution, while the number of years of education required for average U.S. jobs actually increased ahead of the number of workers sufficiently educated to fill those jobs, in some places the more highly educated an applicant is, the more difficult it will be to find work—because those places offer fewer opportunities for the better educated.

Some cities, says the study, titled “Education, Demand, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America,” have an “education gap”—a shortage of educated workers relative to employer demand. More educated workers generally can more easily find jobs in locations with a smaller gap, while those less well educated might have a harder time.

The size of the gap, says the study, predicts the unemployment level: “On average from 2005 to 2011, metro areas with education gaps above 1 experienced unemployment rates 1.4 percentage points higher than metro areas with education gaps below 1.”

We already reported on the Top 10 Best Cities for Educated Job Seekers, so if you don’t want to bang your head against a wall looking for a job, here are the 10 places you’ll want to avoid.

Chattanooga, Tenn.10. Chattanooga, Tenn.-Ga.

Don’t bother taking the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, unless you’re prepared for a long train ride to nowhere.

With an education gap of 1.017, a May unemployment rate of 8.4%, and the change in the unemployment rate from its pre-recession low to May of 2011 coming in at 4.2, you’re better off having the conductor punch your ticket for some other destination.

Lakeland, Fla.9. Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.

If you think it would be nice to work in sunny Florida this winter, you’re right. It would. But it’s not likely.

The Lakeland-Winter Haven area has an education gap of 1.02, a May 2011 unemployment rate of 10.8%, and the change in that rate from its pre-recession low of 7.2, the magic seems to have left the kingdom.

Youngstown, Ohio, postcard8. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.

You could grow old looking for a job in Youngstown.

Its education gap is 1.024, and in May of this year its unemployment rate was 9.1%; that is a change of 3.1 from its pre-recession low.

Riverside, Calif., postcard7. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.

California, alas, seems more to resemble the Hotel California, where you can check out but you can never leave. Out of the 10 worst places to job hunt if you have a substantial education, the Golden State has five.

In the Riverside-San Bernardino area, the education gap is 1.026. The unemployment rate in May was 13.2%, and that’s a change of 8.3 from pre-recession days. Not such a golden opportunity after all.

Stockton, Calif., skyline6. Stockton, Calif.

Stockton is just full of good news. In a 2010 Gallup poll, the city tied with Montgomery, Ala., as the most obese metropolitan area in the U.S. with a rate of 34.6%. Then there were the Central Connecticut State University surveys in 2005 and 2006 that ranked it as the least literate of U.S. cities with a population of more than 250,000. Not only that, but the Feb. 2, 2011 issue of Forbes christened Stockton the “most miserable” city in the U.S., thanks in major part to the implosion in home values.

Stockton’s education gap, perhaps unsurprisingly, was 1.032. Its unemployment rate in May was a frightening 16.2%, and that reflects a difference of 8.8 from its halcyon pre-recession levels. Relocation, anyone?

Fresno city archway5. Fresno, Calif.

Despite picturesque Old Fig Garden, one of the city’s most prestigious neighborhoods, and the equally charming Christmas Tree Lane, which draws 100,000 visitors every year to line up for a tour of its holiday decorations, Fresno’s education gap is 1.036. In May it, too, had a scary unemployment rate of 16%; its pre-recession level was half that.

Modesto city archway4. Modesto, Calif.

It may have been immortalized in the film American Graffiti by native son George Lucas, but jobs are scarce these days in Modesto. So are other amenities; in February 2010, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveyed 353,000 participants in 162 cities about their jobs, finances, physical health, emotional state of mind and communities. Modesto ranked 161. If that isn’t cheery enough, Forbes ranked it 99th in foreclosures for a “Best Bang-for-the-Buck Cities” survey that looked at 100 cities.

Fresno’s education gap is 1.042; the May unemployment rate was 16.7%; and that is a difference from pre-recession days of 8.7.

Old Bakersfield booster sign3. Bakersfield-Delano, Calif.

Bakersfield is another city with a low education rate, which exacerbates its employment problem. A Brookings Institution study that used 2008 data showed that the percentage of adults in the Bakersfield metropolitan area 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree was the lowest, at 14%, of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country. In 1990, it had ranked at 95.

Its education gap is 1.051; its unemployment rate is 15%; and that is double what it was pre-recession.

El Paso, Texas flag2. El Paso, Texas

Although its education gap, at 1.054, is worse than the others, El Paso’s unemployment rate is not quite as bad as poor California, nor has it risen quite so drastically. In May it clocked in at 10%, which is a 4.1 change from pre-recession levels.

McAllen, Texas, logo1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas

With an education gap of 1.093, McAllen tops (or bottoms) them all. Its unemployment rate in May was 11.9%, up 5.3 from pre-recession levels.

Perhaps not surprisingly under the circumstances, much of McAllen’s shopping is done by predominantly Mexican upper- and middle-class consumers, who take advantage of the city’s proximity to the border and its foreign trade zone.




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