Job Losses Explode in Rural America

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In the last 13 months, the number of unemployed people living in rural America has increased by 297,000. All but 15,000 of those jobs were lost in one month, December 2008.


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Looking only at rural and exurban counties, Michigan had the highest unemployment rate of any state in the country, at 11.5%. (See chart below for all the states.) Rural and exurban counties in Michigan lost more than 25,000 jobs in December, the most of any state.

Oregon, South Carolina and California also had double-digit unemployment rates in their rural and exurban counties in December. Twenty-two states had unemployment rates in their rural and exurban areas that were higher than the total U.S. average of 7.4% in December.

The lowest unemployment rates in rural America could be found in Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota and New Hampshire.

The December unemployment report hints of troubles ahead for states that currently have relatively low numbers of jobless. The number of unemployed jumped over 21% in Iowa, a state with only a 5.3% unemployment rate in its rural and exurban counties. North Dakota has the second lowest rural unemployment rate in the country — but the number of jobless increased by 20% in December.

The full report on the states and their rural and exurban counties is below.

were announced in early February.

according to Bill Estep of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, or closed entirely.

Exurban counties have been hard-hit, too. Below is the list of the 50 exurban counties with the highest unemployment rates in December 2008. (Exurban counties are within metropolitan areas but still have a high proportion of residents who live in rural settings.)

Again, the reasons for rising unemployment vary from place to place. In Deschutes County, Oregon, the unemployment rate has nearly doubled in the past year even as the number of jobs has increased. The problem in the fast-growing area around Bend is that more people are moving into the region than there are jobs being created. “The phenomenon we’ve seen here is what happens all the time, is they move here without jobs,” said Roger Lee with Economic Development for Central Oregon.