The U.S. unemployment rate has been improving for some time now, but that doesn't mean it's easy to find a job everywhere. Some places in the United States have unemployment rates that would be enough to make even the most confident job-seekers cringe. Here are five metropolitan areas (populations of 200,000 or more) with unemployment rates much higher than the national average (6.5%) that you'll definitely want to avoid on your next job search:

1.)    Providence, Rhode Island (9.2% unemployment)

Source: Will Hart

The Providence metropolitan area is home to 1.6 million people and extends from Rhode Island into southern Massachusetts. Even though Providence is home to the state government and Fortune 500 companies Textron and United Natural Foods, the city's job market has been struggling to recover since the recession ended. Even though the unemployment rate is down significantly over the past couple of years, job creation has been agonizingly slow.

2.)    Brownsville, Texas (9.5%)

Source: Jim Hatter

Located on the southernmost tip of Texas, the Brownsville metropolitan area has a population of about 415,000. Although Brownsville's urban area is one of the fastest growing in the United States, the job market hasn't quite kept pace with the population growth or with the rest of Texas, which has a lower-than-average unemployment rate of 5.7%.

In an exception to state and national trends, Brownsville has been losing jobs, and just recently a large call center closed its doors and another underwent a massive workforce reduction, combining for losses of around 1,200 more jobs.

3.)    Rockford, Illinois (11.6%)

Source: Ben Jacobson

This northern Illinois metro area is home to almost 350,000 residents, and is the second most populous city in the state, next to Chicago. Rockford's economy has declined since the 1980s, when the manufacturing industry began to contract, with many family owned companies having been bought out and moved elsewhere.

When you consider both the high unemployment and the fact that the property tax rate is very high, it's no wonder that Forbes named Rockford the third most miserable city in America. However, there may be light at the end of the tunnel, with the city actively seeking out high-tech employers to establish operations in the area.

4.)    Stockton, California (12.1%)

Source: Michael Aivaliotis

This metropolitan area is home to about 650,000 northern Californians and is one of the worst victims of the recession. Stockton led the nation in foreclosures in 2007, with one in every 30 homes affected. Things got so bad in Stockton that in 2012, the city became the largest in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy protection. It has since exited bankruptcy, funded by an additional sales tax, but the poor job market lingers.

5.)    Fresno, California (12.5%)

Source: David Jordan

The fifth largest city in California, Fresno's metro area is home to about 1.1 million people. Even though the area's unemployment rate is highest on this list, it could keep going up, as the area continues to lose jobs and the number of people looking for work continues to increase. In fact, Fresno's population grew by almost 16% between 2000 and 2010, and the job market in the area has not grown by nearly as much.

What to take away from this list
While this is not an exhaustive list, you should definitely think about the job market before moving to a new area. There is a comprehensive list by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that ranks the 372 largest metropolitan areas in the country in order of unemployment rates, and it is definitely worth a look if you plan on relocating anytime soon. A low unemployment rate is no guarantee that you'll get a job, but it can definitely improve your odds!

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Matthew Frankel has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Textron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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