Unemployment has been dropping in rural counties since January. And most rural counties have more jobs this May than a year ago.
While the jobless rate edged up slightly in the cities and the exurbs in May, unemployment in rural America dropped. The unemployment rate in rural counties this May was 8.6%.
In urban counties, the jobless rate was 8.8% and in exurban counties the rate 8.3%.
The rural unemployment rate has been falling since January of this year, when it topped 10.2%.
There is a huge variation in local unemployment rates in rural America. Wilcox County, Alabama, had the highest jobless rate in May of this year, at just under 22%.
The lowest unemployment rates among rural counties were in North Dakota. Of the 26 rural counties with the lowest unemployment rates in May, 19 were in North Dakota. The lowest rate — 1% unemployment — could be found in Slope and Williams counties, both beneficiaries of the North Dakota oil and gas boom.
The map above shows job gains and losses in rural counties from May 2010 to May of this year. The orange counties lost jobs. The green counties gained jobs.
The map shows a changing job situation in rural America. For example, while parts of North Dakota have gained jobs in the last year, counties next door have lost employment.
Kentucky has been an employment laggard during the recession, but in the last year, most of its rural counties have gained jobs. Mississippi tells the same story — a state with high rural unemployment but good job gains in the last year.
In the Mountain West, there is a patchwork of rural counties that have gained and lost jobs.
New England and California, however, have lost jobs in their rural counties. Every rural county in New Hampshire — where Republican presidential candidates are knocking on doors and marching in July 4th parades — has lost jobs in the last year. (We should note that unemployment rates in rural New Hampshire are extraordinarily low.)
Also, it may be of interest to those following the Republican primary that rural counties in Texas lost jobs in the last year. Texas Gov. Rick Perry may run for the presidential nomination and will base his campaign on the strength of the state’s economy. Rural Texas still has a relatively low unemployment rate, but it was one of just 17 states to lose rural jobs in the last year.
Louisiana and Arkansas shed the most rural jobs in the last year. California continues to have the highest rural unemployment rate, at 13%.
The chart below shows the employment situation in each state’s rural counties, including the May 2011 unemployment rate and the number of jobs gained or lost since May 2010.
[img:Statesmay11.gif]The variation from county to county is huge. Below is a chart showing the fifty counties that gained the most jobs and the fifty that lost the most jobs.
[img:countiesmay11.gif]Finally, here is a comparison of jobless rates in rural, urban and exurban counties since 2007.