Comparing the unemployment rate in November of 2007 to November of 2009, you'll see that only 25 rural counties in the U.S. had declining rates. Everybody lost employment, but some places lost a lot more than others.
In the map above, red is not good.
The map shows the change in unemployment rates in rural counties between November, 2007, and November, 2009. The greater the increase in its unemployment rate, the redder the county. (To see a larger version of the map, click here.)
Monroe County, Alabama, had the largest increase in its unemployment rate over those two years among the 2,038 counties listed as “non-metro” by the U.S. Census Bureau. Monroe’s unemployment rate rose from 5.6% in November of 2007 to 21.1% in November of last year; unemployment there was 300% worse. (November is the last month where unemployment data is available.)
Only 25 rural counties registered decreases in their unemployment rates over that two year period. Most of them were Great Plains counties with few residents.
Unemployment rates in rural, urban and exurban counties barely changed from May to November of last year. (See chart below.) According to the county employment figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rural counties had an unemployment rate of 9.5% in November. The rate in urban counties was 9.4%. And exurban counties had an unemployment rate of 9.1%.[img:UERNov2009.jpg]
Unemployment rates in rural counties across the nation have run roughly parallel to rates in urban counties since the summer. But as the map shows, not all rural counties are experiencing the same recession.
In his State of the Union address Thursday night, President Obama said “(S)mall towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard” by the nation’s economic difficulties. That has not been true through the Great Plains region or many of the farming regions of the Midwest.
But Alabama, South Carolina and Michigan have been particularly damaged by the recession. Twelve of the 50 counties with the largest increases in their unemployment rates were in Alabama. Nine were in South Carolina. And the “mitten” of Michigan is shaded red, as states with strong stakes in the automobile industry have seen rapid declines in employment.
Here are the fifty rural (non-metro) counties with the largest increases in their unemployment rates from November of 2007 to November of ’09.[img:NovUnemploymentincrease528.jpg]
The Great Plains continues to be an area of employment stability. A recent survey by Creighton University economists found that while employment in rural towns in the Plains area is down, there are some signs of improvement over last year. Fourteen of the 50 rural counties that showed the smallest increases in unemployment were in Kansas. Another 11 were in Nebraska. And 12 more were in the Dakotas. In California, for example, ag jobs have been constant, but rural areas are being hit hard by declines in construction.
Here are the fifty rural counties with the smallest increases in unemployment since 2007. Twenty-five counties showed declines in their unemployment rates.[img:NovUnemploymentDOWN528.jpg]