Cost of Recession: 1.2 Million Rural Jobs

Since the beginning of the recession, rural counties have lost 1.2 million jobs. Only five states have registered increases in the number of rural jobs over the last three years.

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The current recession began in December 2007, nearly three years ago.

No part of rural America has especially thrived over the last three years. The effects of the recession have been anything but uniform. Our monthly reports on rural unemployment show stark differences from place to place. 

Today we want to see how this recession has changed the absolute number of jobs in rural America. To do that, we are comparing the number of jobs in every rural county in July of this year versus the number of jobs in July of 2007.

There are nearly 1.2 million fewer jobs in rural counties this July than there were in July 2007, just a few months before the recession officially started. Yet, in five states — Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, North Dakota and Texas — the number of rural jobs has increased in those three years.

(See below for a comparison of rural jobs in every state.)

None of those states added many jobs. North Dakota, in the middle of an oil and gas boom, increased its number of rural jobs by just over two percent in the last three years, the largest percentage increase in the country.

Texas added the most jobs in rural counties, but the increase totaled only 21,172 jobs, less than two percent of the rural job total.

Four states — Michigan, Alabama, West Virginia and Georgia — have lost more than 10% of their rural jobs. Michigan has lost nearly 12% of its jobs, the greatest drop in the nation.[img:ruraljobsstates.gif]

North Carolina has nearly 111,000 fewer jobs now than in July 2007, the largest drop in actual rural jobs among the states.

The map above shows the change in the number of jobs in every rural county. Green counties have more jobs in July 2010 than they did in 2007.

All the other counties have fewer jobs now than three years earlier. The darker the color, the greater the absolute loss of jobs.

The chart below shows the 50 rural counties losing the most rural jobs between July 2007 and July 2010. Sussex County, in Delaware, lost the most jobs among the nation’s  2,038 rural counties.

(To download an Excel file with job totals for all rural counties in July 2007 and July 2010, click here.)

North Carolina, however, had nine counties on the list, the most of any state. Large job loses were largely in the East. Only seven counties west of the Mississippi River are on this list of the biggest job losers.[img:07Losingcounties.gif]

The counties that gained the most jobs have a particularly western flavor. Only two counties on this list of job gainers are found east of the Mississippi River. (We counted Louisiana as western, which it mostly is.)

The chart below shows the top 50 job gaining counties. Seventeen of these counties are in Texas. Six are in North Dakota and six are in Kansas.


Roberto Gallardo is a research associate at the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University.


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