The recession began in December 2007. Four years later, job losses in rural counties surpass those in urban or exurban communities.
Most of rural America has not recovered from the recession that began four years ago, a Daily Yonder analysis of federal jobs figures has found.
In fact, rural counties have lost a higher percentage of their jobs since the beginning of the recession than have either urban or exurban counties, according to data supplied by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The recession officially began in December 2007 and, economists conclude, ended in June of 2009. But most rural counties still don’t have the same number of jobs they recorded four years ago.
Rural counties had 849,673 fewer jobs in December 2011 than in December 2007, when the recession began. That amounts to 3.7 percent fewer jobs in rural America four years after the recession began.
Urban counties had lost 3.3 percent of their jobs (3,626,001 jobs) four years after the recession began. Exurban counties had lost 2.9 percent of their jobs (366,008). (Exurban counties are in metropolitan regions, but about half the people who live there are in rural settings.)
Not all rural and exurban counties lost jobs, however. The map above shows where jobs were lost and gained between December 2007 and December 2011 in 2,558 rural and exurban counties. (Click on the map to see a larger version.)
Green counties gained jobs during these four years. About 30 percent of rural and exurban counties recorded employment increases since the recession began. These counties are concentrated down the center of the country, from the Northern Plains to South Texas.
Yellow counties lost jobs, but at a rate below the national average decline of 3.3 percent.
Red counties had heavy jobs losses. They all have experienced job declines greater than the national average.
(Look below for the lists of the 50 rural and exurban counties that gained or lost the highest percentage of jobs between December 2007 and December 2011.)
There is a huge difference in the employment pictures among rural counties. For example, North Dakota is home to the rural counties that had both the largest increase and decrease in jobs during this four year period.
Mountrail County, North Dakota, had a 162 percent increase in jobs since December 2007 as the western portion of that state benefited from a gas and oil boom. (Six of the top ten rural counties in job gains were in North Dakota.)
At the same time, Mercer County, North Dakota, lost 32.3 percent of its jobs in this same period. Mercer is a ranching and lignite mining county.
The largest absolute decrease in jobs since the recession began was in Yavapai County, Arizona, an exurban county that lost 8,814 jobs. Michigan has four counties among the top ten job losers (Livingston, St. Clair, Jackson and Lenawee counties); Hawaii has two (Maui and Hawaii counties).
Montgomery County, Texas, an exurban county near Houston, gained 19,431 jobs, ranking first among rural and exurban counties in terms of absolute jobs gains. Several Texas exurban counties ranked high on this list (Hays, Comal and Guadalupe counties) as well as several North Dakota counties.
Here are the 50 rural and exurban counties that had the largest rate of job gains since the time the recession began in December 2007.
Below are the 50 rural and exurban counties that lost the largest percentage of their jobs since the recession began.