The unemployment rate in rural America has been falling since January. Still, there are 14 states where the unemployment rate in rural counties runs in double digits.
More than 9 out of every ten rural counties recorded a drop in their local unemployment rates between March and April of this year, according to the latest employment figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are 2,036 counties outside the nation’s metropolitan areas. Between March and April, 1,865 of these rural counties reported declines in their unemployment rates.
(April is the last month where the BLS reported county employment figures.)
The number of jobs in rural America increased by 163,000 in the month while the number of unemployed decreased by 177,000. As a result, the unemployment rate in rural counties declined from 9.5% in March 2011 to 8.7% in April. That’s the third month in a row that the unemployment rate in rural counties has declined.
The map above shows the change in unemployment rates in rural counties from March to April. Green and brown counties had lower unemployment rates in April than in March. Red counties had unemployment rates that rose. Click on the map to see a gigantic version.
We see several regional shifts in the employment picture:
• Rates in the Great Plains and Texas didn’t change as much as in the rest of rural America — perhaps because rates there were already low and had less room to drop.
• The Southeast showed little improvement from March to April and several counties in Alabama had rising unemployment rates, perhaps as a result of the tornados that ravaged the state.
• Rural New England has had low unemployment rates for much of the recession, but the region showed little improvement in April.
•The Mountain West and the Pacific coast states, which have had high unemployment rates, had improving employment pictures.
California has the highest rural unemployment rates among the states, at 13.7% in its rural counties. Fourteen states had double-digit unemployment rates in their rural counties.
Only four states had double-digit unemployment rates in their urban counties.
The lowest unemployment rates were, again, in the Great Plains. North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and New Hampshire all had rural unemployment rates below 5%.
Both of the first two presidential primary states now have extraordinarily low unemployment rates in their rural counties. Iowa’s rural unemployment rate was 6.3% in April.
Below is a list of all the states and their rural, urban and exurban unemployment rates in April 2011