Half of Rural Counties Gain Jobs Since May 2018

Job growth continues to cluster in the nation’s largest cities. Only 5.5 percent of the 1.5 million jobs added from May 2018 to May 2019 were in nonmetropolitan counties.

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Jobs continue to cluster in the nation’s largest cities, according to the latest federal employment figures. While rural America gained jobs in the last year, the pace of growth was just a fraction of what was seen in urban counties.

The country gained just over 1.5 million jobs between May 2018 and May of this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Six out of 10 of those new jobs were created in the country’s largest cities, urban areas of a million or more people.

Rural America, meanwhile, gained 85,000 jobs, or 5.5 percent of the total increase.

The job growth rate in the central counties of these major metropolitan areas was three times that of rural counties.

The map shows which counties gained or lost jobs between May 2018 and May 2019.

Job losses are more widespread in rural America. Losses were more likely in the counties that are farthest from cities. Just over 40 percent of rural counties adjacent to metro regions lost jobs since May of last year. Over half of rural counties that aren’t adjacent to metro areas lost jobs last year.

Also, the smaller the population, the more likely a place is to have lost jobs. For example, a third of the smallest metro areas (those with between 50,000 and 250,000 people) lost jobs. As a result, the share of the nation’s total employment continued to shift to the central counties of larger metro areas.

A message from the Rural Assembly

The strongest job growth, in fact, was in the central counties of metro areas between 250,000 and 1 million people.

There were some dark (if still mysterious) clouds in the urban job figures. According to the BLS, the central counties of Los Angeles and New York had fewer jobs this May than in May 2018. Los Angeles County reported 12,000 fewer jobs this May than in May 2018. Orange County, California was down 6,000 jobs. Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, was down just over 10,000 jobs; New York County was off by 8,000.

BLS job figures can be flighty. Monthly totals are often revised. This is why the Daily Yonder makes frequent reports on these figures, so that trends can be seen.

But for years after the 2007-8 recession, Los Angeles led the nation in job growth. According to the BLS, Los Angeles lost jobs in the year to year comparisons in both April and May.

Hawaii also showed job loses, both in rural and urban counties. Urban Honolulu County lost over 13,000 jobs in the last year, the most in the nation. Rural Hilo County and small city Maui County also showed job declines in the last year.

The central areas of Phoenix, Houston, Dallas and Las Vegas reported the largest job gains among urban counties.

Jackson County, West Virginia, and Sevier County, Tennessee, two Appalachian counties, reported the largest job gains among rural counties that are adjacent to metro areas. Eddy County (Carlsbad), New Mexico, reported the largest job gain of rural counties that aren’t adjacent to any metro region.

Unemployment rates were well under 4 percent in rural and urban counties.

A message from the Rural Assembly

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