Rural Gains 150,000 Jobs in Last Year

Unemployment drops to 6.6% in June in nonmetropolitan counties, more than a full point lower than 2013 levels.

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The number of rural jobs rose in May and June. The rural unemployment rate was more than a full percentage point lower than a year ago.

According to the most recent statistics released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the recovery is proceeding in rural counties.

The number of people working for pay in nonmetropolitan and micropolitan counties this June has increased by more than 150,000 from June of 2013.

(Micropolitan counties have towns of between 10,000 and 50,000 people; nonmetropolitan counties have no town larger than 10,000. We combine nonmetropolitan and micropolitan counties when we describe rural America.)

The unemployment rate in nonmetropolitan counties has dropped from 7.9 percent in June 2013 to 6.6 percent this June. In micropolitan counties, the rate declined from 7.8 percent to 6.4 percent.

In metro counties, the unemployment rate for June was 6.3%.

The map above shows where those jobs have been added since June 2013 and where the number of people employed has declined. Click on a county to see the individual statistics on jobs and the June unemployment rate. (Interactive map.)

  • Red counties are rural counties that have fewer jobs this June than a year ago.
  • Green counties are rural communities that gained jobs in the last year.
  • Orange counties are metro communities that lost jobs.
  • Blue areas are urban counties that gained jobs.

You can see the distinct regional patterns of gains and losses on the map. The destruction of coal jobs in the Eastern coalfields continues, just as the job gains in the oil shale counties in the Upper Midwest and Texas add swatches of green to the map.

Rural counties in the Carolinas continue to recover, but not so in the Deep South of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.

The good news in the June report is that after years of declines, rural counties nationally are now steadily gaining jobs. And the pace of the gains is increasing. June’s job totals were better than May’s.

The not-so-good news is that metro counties are gaining jobs at a faster pace than in rural regions.

And a major reason that the unemployment rate has fallen in rural counties is that there are fewer people in the workforce. People in rural counties have stopped looking for jobs or have left home for the cities. Or both.

While rural counties added more than 150,000 jobs in the last year, urban counties gained more than 2 million. The pace of job growth in urban counties was twice that in rural (including micropolitan) counties.

Meanwhile, the number of people in the workforce (those either working or looking for jobs) is decreasing in rural counties. There are 176,000 fewer people in the rural workforce this June compared to June of 2013.

The urban workforce has increased by 860,000 in the same period.