The Recession: Rural Employment Winners and Losers

[imgbelt img=Hilo.jpg]Nationally, the recession has been a job killer. But the economic downturn varies from place to place. Today, the Yonder looks at the rural, exurban and urban counties that have done the best, and worst, over the last year.


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Downtown Hilo, Hawaii. Two rural counties in Hawaii had the largest job losses in the last year, according to a Yonder analysis.

What does it take to be a rural job gainer in this poor economy?

First, it helps to be in Texas. Of the 50 rural counties that gained the most jobs since May of 2008, 29 were in the Lone Star State.

Second, it didn’t hurt to be near the U.S. Army’s Fort Riley in Kansas. Three of the top four job-gaining rural counties were near that military installation: Riley, Geary and Pottawatomie.

As the recession has deepened nationally, its effects are not evenly spread around the country. Some places are gaining jobs while others are losing jobs in unprecedented numbers.

Yesterday, the Daily Yonder examined the national trends in rural, urban and exurban employment. Today, we are getting a bit more local, looking at the particular counties that have either gained or lost the most jobs since May of last year.

In the lists below, you’ll see that few counties in the Great Plains or the Mountain West show up on the list of places that have lost the most jobs. Texas was home to most of the biggest job gainers among rural counties, as we’ve seen, but the state also excelled among exurban and urban counties.

Austin, Texas, (Travis County) showed the largest increase in numbers of jobs since last May among all urban counties. That expanding economy spread to nearby rural counties. The three exurban counties showing the largest job increases from a year ago were all near the Texas capitol. Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties are all part of the larger Austin metro area.

Not only did Texas dominate job gains on the list of rural and exurban counties, but 8 out of the 10 urban counties with largest job gains over the last year are in Texas. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is running for re-election in 2010. The job figures from May give him a lot to brag about in his campaign.

Two rural Hawaii counties reported the most job losses since May of 2008, as the tourism economy has collapsed. Wailuku in May had 6,144 fewer jobs than a year ago. Hilo County was down by 4,900 jobs. Litchfield County, Connecticut, Sussex County, Delaware, and Allegan County, Michigan all reported job losses of more than 4,000 since May of 2008.

The two rural counties with the greatest percentage decrease in jobs since last May  were Graham and Greenlee counties in Arizona. Both counties are near the New Mexico border and both have lost nearly 19% of the jobs they had a year ago.

The manufacturing counties in the Southeast continue to show large job losses. Economists in North Carolina are expecting the state’s unemployment rate to rise until 2010,  to more than 13%.

Every county has its own story, however. So below are a series of charts that show those communities gaining and losing the most jobs since May of 2008. We divide counties into rural, exurban and urban. To see a high resolution map of these counties, click here.

First, here are the 50 rural counties that have gained the most jobs since May 2008.[img:May0950ruralgainers.jpg]

Here are the 50 rural counties that lost the most jobs since May 2008.[img:May0950RuralLosers.jpg]

Below are the 50 exurban counties that lost the most jobs since May 2008.[img:May09ExurbanLosers.jpg]

As a bonus, we’ve included lists of urban counties, starting with the fifty that gained the most jobs since May 2008.[img:May09UrbanGains.jpg]

And, finally, here are the 50 urban counties that lost the most jobs since May 2008.[img:May09urbanlosers.jpg]