Rural Unemployment Surpasses Urban Rate

For much of last year, rural areas had better unemployment numbers than metro America. Now, the tables have turned and a greater percentage of rural residents find themselves out of work.

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Rural unemployment rates are now firmly above jobless numbers in urban areas and the country as a whole.

In February, urban (or metropolitan) unemployment stood at 8 percent, according to data released Wednesday (April 10, 2013) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

In so-called micropolitan counties — those with cities between 10,000 and 50,000 — unemployment in February stood at 8.5 percent. And in rural counties with towns below 10,000, the unemployment rate was 8.9 percent.

(For Census buffs, non-metropolitan America consists of these rural  –  or “non-core” – counties and micropolitan counties.)

Nationally, the rate in February was 8.1 percent, according to the BLS. The non-metropolitan counties had an unemployment rate of 8.7 percent.

The map above shows all U.S. counties. Green counties are non-metropolitan (rural and micropolitan) that have rates at or below the national average. Orange counties have unemployment rates above the national average of 8.1 percent.

The gray counties are metropolitan counties.

Click on the map — or click here — to see an interactive version of this map. On the interactive version, you can click on a county and see whether it is metropolitan, micropolitan or rural; its February unemployment rate; and workforce totals of employed and unemployed people as of February.

For much of last year, unemployment in rural counties was well below rates found in metro regions. In the last several months, however, rural rates have not come down as fast as urban rates — and rural America has developed an unemployment problem that is more severe than what is found in urban counties.

Still, unemployment rates have dropped since February a year ago, when the national rate rested at 8.7 percent. The rural rate then was 9.2 percent and the micropolitan rate was 9 percent.

The rates are also down from January, when the rural rate was 9.3 percent and the micropolitan rate was 8.9 percent.



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