Rural Jobs Grow at Half City Rate
Job growth has been slow across the nation in the last year, but the rate of new employment has been particularly balky in rural America.
The number of jobs in rural counties has grown at only half the rate of urban counties from June 2011 to June 2012. Figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the jobs in urban counties increased by 1.77 percent during that 12-month period, the latest for which there are data for counties.
In rural counties, however, the rate of job growth was only .86 percent, according to the BLS.
Exurban counties had 1.6 percent more jobs this June than in June of 2011. Combined, the national rate of job growth for the last year was 1.6 percent.
In rural counties, there are 194,000 more jobs this June than in June a year ago. In exurban counties, there are 201,000 more jobs and in urban counties there are 1,874,000 additional jobs.
(Exurban counties lie within metropolitan regions, but half their residents live in rural settings.)
Many counties lost jobs over the last year. One-third of rural and exurban counties had fewer people working this June than in June 2011.
The map above shows the change in the number of jobs in rural and exurban counties over the last year. Dark blue counties had job growth at nearly twice the 1.6 percent annual average. Most of those counties lie west of the Mississippi River — and they can’t be found along the Pacific Coast.
Light blue counties had rates of job growth at or above the national average. Green counties gained jobs, but at rates below the national average.
And red counties either gained no jobs or lost employment in the last year. (Click on the map to see a much larger version.)
The patterns are often not bounded by state lines. For instance, North Dakota had the three counties with the largest job gains in the last year: Dunn (up 52.5 percent); Williams (41 percent) and McKenzie (30.3 percent).
But North Dakota also had several of the biggest job losers, including Oliver County, which lost 18.2 percent of its jobs in the last year.
There are general patterns, however. For instance, ten of the 20 rural or exurban counties with the fastest rates of job growth are in Colorado.
Below is a chart showing unemployment rates in rural, urban and exurban counties in the 50 states and Washington, D.C., in June 2012. The chart also shows the change in jobs over the last year — both the absolute number and the percent change.
Rural North Dakota (up 5.7 percent) and Colorado (up 3.1 percent) have had the largest percentage increase in jobs over the last year.
The largest absolute increase in rural jobs, however, was in Texas. Rural counties in Texas have more than 33,000 more jobs this June than in June 2011.
Nine states lost jobs in the their rural counties — Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin.
The largest disparity between rural and urban employment in June 2012 was in South Carolina. The urban unemployment rate in South Carolina in June was 8.9 percent; in rural counties, the rate was 12.2 percent.
The rural unemployment rate was in double digits in nine states: Arizona (11 percent); California (12.1 percent); Georgia (11 percent); Mississippi (10.9 percent); North Carolina (11 percent); Oregon (10 percent); South Carolina (12.2 percent); and Tennessee (10.4 percent).
Out of those states with high rural unemployment rates in June, only North Carolina is generally considered a swing state in the upcoming presidential election.
Unemployment rates continued to climb in urban, rural and exurban counties in June. The urban rate was 8.5 percent, up from 8 percent in May. The unemployment rate in exurban counties in June was 7.9 percent, up from 7.4 percent in May.
The unemployment rate in rural America in June was 8.3 percent, up from 7.8 percent in May.