Welcome to the Exurban Recession

Jobs have been lost all over the country. But losses are higher in exurban counties, the fast-growing communities that can be found between the cities and rural America.

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This has become the exurban recession.

The loss of jobs has been greater in the formerly fast-growing exurbs — the not quite urban, not fully rural counties on the edges of cities — than in either rural America or the nation’s metros. According to June employment figures compiled by the Daily Yonder, exurban counties lost a higher percentage of their jobs in the previous 12 months than did either urban or rural counties.

“Things are really starting to shift and change,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, a senior research analyst at the Brookings Institution. “The communities that are seeing their unemployed populations growing fastest are the exurbs and the suburbs.” Brookings described the economic downturn as a “crabgrass recession” to Tennessee newspaper reporter Jennifer Brooks.

No exurban county reported gains in employment since June 2008.

The map above shows the change in the number of jobs between June 2008 and June 2009 in rural and exurban counties. (Metropolitan counties are in white.) Counties that lost jobs over those 12 months at rates higher than the national average are in brown and red. Red counties are those that lost more than 10 percent of their jobs between June 2008 and June 2009. There are 66 counties with these steep declines in jobs.

Only twelve counties reported job gains of more than 10 percent since June of 2008. Six of those job-producing counties are in Texas: Loving, Wheeler, Sutton, Hemphill, Reagan and Motley. Three were in Kansas: Pottawatomie, Geary and Riley. Telfair County in Georgia and Pocahontas County in Iowa were among the dozen. Wasco County, Oregon, led the list, showing a 16% increase in jobs from June 2008 to June 2009.

Below is a list of the 50 rural counties that had the largest percentage declines in employed people since June 2008. To download the full excel file of all rural counties, click here.

Daily Yonder/BLS
These are the 50 counties with the largest percentage declines in jobs since June 2008. The chart shows the number of employed and unemployed in each county in June 2009 and the change in the number employed over the previous year.

The Brookings Report, The Landscape of Recession,  is concerned only with the nation’s metro areas. The report finds, however, that “Compared to the recession at the turn of the decade, suburbs appear to be bearing more of the unemployment increase this time around.”

If the suburbs were hurting more than the cities, Brookings found that “Exurbs and emerging suburbs exhibit a higher unemployment rate than other types of suburbs.” On average, the higher the population density of the suburban county, the fewer jobs it lost.

Brookings speculates that the declines in the housing market — particularly in the West — may be a reason why job declines have been greater in exurban counties. Moreover, Brookings finds that food stamp enrollments in these counties is “lagging,” a fact that points to a “possible gap in safety net access.”

This is the trend the Yonder finds in exurban counties using June 2009 employment figures. Below are the 50 exurban counties that lost the largest percentage of their jobs between June 2008 and June 2009:

Daily Yonder/BLS
These are the 50 counties with the largest percentage decline in jobs since June 2008. The chart shows the number of employed and unemployed in each county in June 2009 and the change in the number employed over the last year.

The Associated Press uses a three-part index to measure economic stress. The news organization combines unemployment figures, foreclosures and bankruptcies to produce a measure of financial strain. 

The AP’s economic stress measure held steady in the last month. The states with the largest economic declines since last year were Nevada, Oregon and Michigan. To see the AP’s economic stress map, click here

 

 

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