A lower unemployment rate in August disguises a disturbing trend in the rural economy – a continuing decline in the number of workers.
The unemployment rate in rural America dropped below the rate found in urban regions in August. In July of this year, the urban rate was slightly lower than the rural rate.
That’s the good news for rural communities.
The bad news is that the workforce in rural America is shrinking.
There were 79,000 fewer people in the rural workforce this August than in August of 2012. The workforce includes all those working or looking for employment.
August is the latest jobs data released by the federal government, which had its research schedules scrambled by the government shutdown. In the report recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rural counties with no town of more than 10,000 had an unemployment rate of 7.26% in August.
In rural counties with towns between 10,000 and 50,000 people (called micropolitan counties), the August unemployment rate was 7.32%.
In urban counties, the August unemployment rate stood at 7.36%.
The map will tell you the unemployment and employment figures for every U.S. county. Click on it and you’ll get to an interactive version.
The green counties are rural areas that had unemployment rates at or below the U.S. average of 7.35% in August. The orange counties are rural areas that had unemployment rates above the national average of 7.35%.
The rates everywhere are well below those found in August of 2012, when the national unemployment rate stood at 8.2%. But rural and urban counties reached their lower rates in different ways.
Urban counties have gained 1.8 million jobs since last August. Rural areas, however, have only added 67,000 jobs in the last year.
When it comes to job growth in the last year, 96.4% of the new jobs have been created in urban counties.
Unemployment in rural America has been dropping largely because the workforce has been shrinking.
Since last August, the workforce in urban counties has grown by 715,000 people.
In rural America, however, the workforce has shrunk by 79,000 people.
The map above shows that the jobs picture is intensely local. Among rural counties, rates are high on both coasts and in the Southeast.
But you can check your own county by clicking on the map and comparing employment data from this August to August of 2012. And you can see how your county is doing compared to neighboring counties.