Rates Drop, but Unemployment Still Widespread

Unemployment rates are down in rural America, but there are still 935,000 fewer jobs in rural counties now than there were in December of 2007.

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Unemployment rates in rural America continued to dip in April, although the rate of joblessness in rural counties still exceeds those in exurban and urban communities.

Rural counties reported an unemployment rate of 9.6% in April 2010, down from 10.7% in March. (April is the latest month where unemployment rates are tallied by county.)

The unemployment rate in exurban counties was 9.2% in April and in urban counties it was 9.5%. (See the next page for a chart of rural, urban and exurban unemployment rates since the beginning of 2007.)

Even as unemployment rates drop, however, rural America has a long way to go before it gets back to where it was before the recession began in December of 2007. In April of this year, there were 935,000 fewer jobs in rural counties than there were in December 2007. (Click here to download an Excel chart showing employment and unemployment totals in April 2009 and April 2010 for all U.S. counties.) 

The geography of the recession has changed in rural counties over the last year. (Click here or on the map to see a larger version.)

The map above shows the change in unemployment rates from April of 2009 to April of this year. Red counties have higher unemployment rates this year than last. Green counties have lower unemployment rates in April 2010 than April 2009.

Many areas that were doing relatively well last April have seen a worsening of their employment situation while those parts of rural America that were hurting a year ago have shown some improvement.

A year ago, for example, rural counties in the Carolinas had some of the worst unemployment in the country.  

Since last year, however, those high rates have dropped. North and South Carolina show a lot of “green” in the map above, indicating their unemployment rates have dropped.

Oregon and Washington have also improved in the last year.

Meanwhile, areas that had below average unemployment last year have seen their rates rise. The red of rising unemployment has spread across the Mountain West. Eastern Kentucky has seen a rise in unemployment in the last year.

 Rural Iowa and Texas were in good shape last year, but the rural counties in these two states have seen unemployment rates rise since.

Daily Yonder/BEA
This chart shows the unemployment rate in rural, exurban and urban counties from 2007 through April of this year. The current recession began in December 2007.

Some areas of the country that were troubled last year have only gotten worse. Unemployment has continued to rise in rural Michigan — piling on to jobless rates that were above the national average a year ago.

Rural Mississippi and Alabama continue to bleed jobs, with their unemployment rates rising from high levels in 2009.

The Dakotas continue to be strong employment centers. Unemployment rates in rural North and South Dakota were low last year, and they’ve dropped in the past year.

Rural America is still doing worse that it was in 2009. There are 368,000 fewer jobs in rural America this April than in April a year ago. Most rural counties (58%), not surprisingly, have seen a drop in the absolute number of jobs in that time. 

The gains and loses in unemployment are uneven across rural America. The 50 rural counties that lost the largest number of jobs from April 2009 to April of this year are listed below.[img:AprilJobsLosing.png]

Fewer rural counties gained jobs. Here are the 50 communities in rural America that gained the most jobs from April 2009 to April 2010.[img:AprilJobsGaining.png]

 

 

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