Rural America's June unemployment rate was lower than the June rate in 2009. That's a first for this year. Though the unemployment rate is lower, so is the number of jobs in rural counties.
The rural unemployment rate in June of this year dropped below the rate in June of 2009 — the first time this year that the rural unemployment rate was lower than in the corresponding month a year ago.
The June 2010 rate in the nation’s 2,038 rural counties was 9.5%. A year ago, the monthly unemployment rate was 9.9%.
The map above shows the patchiness of the employment picture in rural counties. (To see a bigger version of the map, click on it, or click here.)
Counties colored blue have more jobs this June than in June 2009. Dark blue counties all have at least 500 more jobs this year than last. Saline County, Kansas, counts 3,842 more jobs in 2010 than in 2009.
Tan counties lost jobs. Flathead County, Montana, has 5,189 fewer jobs this year than in June 2009.
As you can see, there are far more tan counties than ones colored blue. Of the 2,038 rural counties in the U.S., only 772 — 38% —have more jobs this June than in June of 2009.
In total, there are 367,000 fewer jobs in rural America this June than in June of last year.
There are fewer jobs, but there are also fewer rural residents looking for jobs — 147,000 fewer this June than in 2009. As a result, the unemployment rate is going down.
We don’t know why there are fewer people looking for work. Some people may have given up the search. Others may have left rural America altogether.[img:JunetoJune.jpg]
Rural unemployment was higher for most of 2010 than in the corresponding months of 2009. (See chart above.) In June, however, the lines crossed; and the unemployment rate in 2010 was lower than the rate in 2009.
The job gains that rural counties did register are concentrated in the middle of the country. Ten of the top 50 rural counties in job gains were in Indiana, a state hit hard in the early part of this recession. Kansas showed broad job gains, as did the rest of the Great Plains.
(A list of the 50 rural counties gaining and losing the most jobs can be found below.)
Job losses are scattered across the country. The 50 rural counties with the largest job losses since June of 2009 come from 24 different states.
The rural Southeast continues to be a weak place for job growth and a center of rural unemployment. Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi all show heavy job losses since last year. And these states have some of the highest unemployment rates in June.
Meanwhile, some states hit hard at the beginning of the recession are showing job gains in the last year. In addition to Indiana, rural Ohio, Oregon and South Carolina all have counties that have gained significant numbers of jobs since a year ago.
Here is a list of the 50 rural counties that have gained the most jobs since June of last year.
And here are the 50 rural counties that have lost the most jobs from June 2009 to June 2010.
Roberto Gallardo is a research associate at the Southern Rural Development Center, which is part of Mississippi State University.