Rural Counties Still Facing Big Jobs Deficit

Urban counties have recovered – and then some – from the job losses they suffered during the Great Recession. But in nonmetro America, there are still 830,000 fewer jobs today than there were in 2007. 

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Unemployment in rural counties stayed stubbornly over 7 percent in December, according to employment figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rural unemployment rate was, in fact, up slightly from November’s rate of 6.9 percent.

Unemployment rates in metro counties fell to 6.4 percent in December from 6.6 percent the month before. The rate in counties with small cities (between 10,000 and 50,000) fell to 6.7 percent from 6.8 percent in November.

These figures are not seasonally adjusted — and the changes are small — but this is a bit more evidence that the economic recovery in rural counties is lagging the rest of the country.

More troubling than the stalled month-to-month unemployment rate, however, is the fact that rural counties and counties with small town still don’t have the jobs that existed before the recession began in December 2007, more than six years ago.

We compared the number of jobs the BLS counted in December with the number of jobs the government agency found in all of 2007. Urban counties this December had nearly 100,000 more jobs than the BLS found in 2007, before the recession began.

The story was not so happy in rural or small town counties.

Rural counties in December reported having 382,000 fewer jobs than in 2007. Counties with small towns had 448,000 fewer jobs at the end of 2013 than in all of 2007.

Combined, the counties outside metropolitan regions had 830,000 fewer jobs in December 2013 than the average of 2007.

The map above shows whether each county gained or lost jobs between 2007 and December 2013. If you click on the map, you’ll get an active version. Click on any county and you’ll find information on jobs and unemployment.

Green counties are rural or small town counties that gained jobs between 2007 and December 2013. These counties are clustered down the middle of the country. Of the 22 rural counties that gained the most jobs, 11 are in Texas.

Red counties are rural and small town counties that lost jobs.

Blue counties are urban places that gained jobs. Orange counties are urban losers.

There was a shift in workforce over the last six years. (Workforce includes all those people either working or looking for jobs.) In the cities, the workforce increased by 2.7 million since 2007.

In rural and small town counties, however, the workforce declined by 486,000 people during this period. Rural counties that lost jobs outnumber those that gained jobs by more than two to one (1,376 to 595). 

Click on the counties and tell us what is driving employment in your area.

 

 

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