Rural Unemployment Lower than City Rates

The difference in unemployment rates from rural to urban isn't that large nationally. The national urban rate is higher. But in 30 states, urban rates are lower than unemployment rates in rural counties.

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The unemployment rate in rural America rose slightly in October as the rate dipped slightly in urban counties, according to a Daily Yonder analysis. 

The urban unemployment rate remains higher than the rate in rural counties, as it has been since August. That national rate was heavily influenced by unemployment in a few large cities, however. In 30 of the 48 states with rural counties, rural unemployment rates are higher than rates in urban counties.

Unemployment rates in exurban counties peaked in June and have been falling ever since.

 (A chart showing rural, urban and exurban unemployment rates in every state appears on the next page.)

The map above shows unemployment rates for each rural and exurban county. Click here for a bigger version of the map. (Urban counties are in white.) 

In October, the national unemployment rate was 9.5%. In rural counties, the unemployment rate was 9.4% in October, up from 9.3% in September.

The urban unemployment rate in October was 9.5%, and the exurban rate was 9.1%.

The unemployment situation in the U.S. changes the most by region, not by whether a county is rural, exurban or urban. Michigan, the Southeast, Oregon and Alabama all have large areas of high unemployment, urban and rural. (The redder the county, the higher the unemployment.) Wilcox County, Alabama, has the highest unemployment rate among all rural counties at just over 25%. As has been the case since the beginning of the recession, Great Plains counties have the lowest unemployment rates (in the darkest green). [img:UERSince07.jpg]

Continuing high unemployment has become a preoccupation with the administration of President Barack Obama. Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced last week that the jobless rate fell to 10% in November, down from 10.2% the month before. President Obama held a “jobs summit” last week, looking for ideas to spur employment. And he embarked on what the White House was calling a Main Street tour, with the President visiting Heartland cities and towns to talk about job creation. In his first stop, the President visited Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, an urban county that in October had an unemployment rate of 9.3%, slightly below the national average. 

(The Yonder’s figures differ slightly from the monthly unemployment rates produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The monthly reports issued by the BLS show a higher unemployment rate nationally — 10.2% instead of our 9.5%.  The monthly BLS release, however, does not give rates for counties. County data is compiled by a different office within BLS using different methods. The Local Area Unemployment Statistics group explains its methods here.  The LAUS data set has consistently shown a lower unemployment rate than the standard figure most frequently quoted.)

Obama said last week that he didn’t support a second stimulus appropriation to stimulate job growth. “It is not going to be possible for us to have a huge second stimulus, because frankly, we just don’t have the money,” Obama told USA Today

The chart below shows the unemployment rate for the rural, urban and exurban counties in each state. The highest rural unemployment rate, 15.5%, is in South Carolina, followed by Michigan (13.4%), Alabama (12.9%), California (12.7%) and Tennessee (12.5%). 

Employment rates in the Great Plains have held steadier through the recession. The five states with the lowest rural unemployment rates — all below 6% — are North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado. 

The highest exurban unemployment rate was Michigan, at 13.6%.

[img:UnemploymentState528.jpg]

 

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