1. El Centro, California
Lose your job in El Centro and it may be quite some time before you find another one. One in four people here are out of work and the city holds the not-so distinguished honor of having the highest unemployment rate -- 27.5% -- in the country (close behind is Yuma, Ariz., with 27.2% unemployment).
The desert city, which is located in Imperial County just across the border from Mexicali, has a jobless rate triple the national average of 9.5% thanks to the seasonal fluctuations of field laborers. Field work is the county's third-largest employment sector after government, transportation and utilities, according to AOL News.
"Its location across the border from a much larger Mexican city means that there is a large floating labor force," Jim Gerber, an economics professor and director of the international business program at San Diego State University, told AOL News. "The data for Imperial County is skewed by this, such that the layoffs and out-of-work laborers are not actually counted correctly."
Even with the ebb and flow of its working population, things are still pretty bleak in El Centro. Last year, the city's cemetery went into foreclosure.
2. Cleveland, Ohio
LeBron James isn't the only person leaving Cleveland. The U.S. Census estimated that 2,658 people left the city in 2009, the largest numerical drop among America's major cities.
Forbes also put Cleveland atop its list of most miserable U.S. cities, factoring in its high unemployment (although at 9.1% it's below the national average), high taxes, lousy weather, political corruption and lousy sports teams -- and that was before LeBron decided to leave.
Weather is a big factor, according to Forbes. Located on the south shore of Lake Erie, Cleveland gets hit by lake-effect snow, averaging almost 60 inches of the stuff every winter. Its frigid winters help produce an average annual temperature of only 50 degrees, 10 degrees below the average of the 50 cities measured by Forbes.
Nicknamed the "Mistake by the Lake," Cleveland ranked near the bottom when looking at corruption on the Forbes list. "Northern Ohio has seen 309 public officials convicted of crimes over the past 10 years," according to the Forbes story, which cites data from the Justice Department. "A current FBI investigation of public officials in Cuyahoga County (where Cleveland is located) has ensnared more than two dozen government employees and businessmen on charges including bribery, fraud and tax evasion."
Cleveland also ranks in the top third of all metro areas for foreclosure rates. The city has thousands of abandoned homes, in part because it provided down payments through the federally-funded Afford-a-Home program to many people who could not afford their mortgage payments.
3. Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is America's most dangerous city, with 1,220 violent crimes per 100,000 people, according to violent crime statistics from the FBI's latest uniform crime report, issued in 2008. It's heavy reliance on the stumbling auto industry hasn't helped matters much. Motown also boasts high foreclosure and unemployment rates.
As a result home prices have nosedived. Just last year you could buy a home in Detroit for $10,000. Foreclosures in metro Detroit were up 35% in the first six months of this year, compared to the same time in 2009. Vacant homes and blight are so bad that the city recently imposed a new ordinance requiring banks and homeowners to register their property with the city for a $25 annual fee, according to the Detroit Free Press. Even the city's office vacancy rate is high, with a 30% rate that leads the nation.
While Forbes names the Detroit metro area -- which has a 13.7% unemployment rate -- as one of the worst spots to find employment, job growth is expected to rebound as the auto industry starts to recover. Finally, some good news for the people Detroit -- if anyone is left.
4. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas was one of the hardest hit cities when the housing bubble burst.
In fact, the metro area was at the epicenter of the mess, with the highest foreclosure rate in the country in 2009, according to a report on by RealtyTrac. So many homes are empty that some neighborhoods either have no one around or one lone resident. That doesn't make for much of a neighborhood block party. Nationwide, 2.21% of housing units received a foreclosure filing in 2009, compared to 12% in Las Vegas.
Those who have hung onto their homes are likely underwater on their mortgages -- meaning their mortgages are worth more than their homes. During the first quarter of 2010, home prices in Las Vegas continued to fall. Prices in the metro area have fallen more than 50% from their peak in August 2006, the Associated Press reports.
5. Oklahoma City, Okla.
Oklahoma City is the unhealthiest city in the country, as measured by the American College of Sports Medicine's annual fitness index. The index looks at 30 fitness indicators, including obesity and exercise rates, death rate from cardiovascular disease, acres of park land, number of primary care physicians per capita and percentage of residents who bicycle or walk to work.
The index compares the 50 largest metro areas on a 100-point scale; Oklahoma City received a score of 24.3, making it the most sluggish city in the U.S. The obesity rate is 30.2%, four points above average. It has an exercise rate of 71% and has half as many baseball diamonds, recreation centers and dog parks as most cities. Detroit and Las Vegas also performed poorly on the fitness index.