For a nation mired in seemingly never-ending economic doldrums, turns out the summer wasn’t half bad. From July to September, the U.S. economy grew 2.5 percent, double the rate from April to June. Unemployment is expected to stay level through the winter, and consumer spending rose .6 percent in September, coupled with a small increase in personal income.
Yet much of the nation is still struggling to pay the bills. Wall Street can’t figure out whether to be bullish or bearish, and overall student debt recently surpassed $1 trillion. The economy is certainly recovering—the annual GDP rate was up 2.5 percent from July to September, the best rate in a year—but ask anyone at Occupy Wall Street: We’re still a long way away from pre-recession numbers making a real difference in the average American’s life.
In short, the national numbers are promising, but plenty of people are still hurting. To find the most struggling cities in the country, we used three data points weighted equally: the most recently available unemployment rate (August 2011), median household income, and average debt. Data is from a recent report by Experian and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average credit score for each city is included in the gallery, though not taken into account to determine the final ranking. If this data is any indication, the cities struggling the most right now—the ones that may take the longest to recover—are clustered in the South and along the Pacific Coast.