Rural Gains Jobs Slowly While New Employment Clusters in Cities

The urban core of the nation’s largest cities gained 1.7% more jobs in the last year, while the most remote rural counties gained only 0.3%. With one exception, the smaller the county, the smaller its percentage job growth was.


More than four out of 10 rural counties lost jobs in the past year, according to a Daily Yonder analysis of federal data. 

In contrast, only 14 percent of urban counties saw a decline in jobs from June 2017 to June 2018. 

The jobs survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been telling the same story for the past several years: Employment is concentrating in the nation’s urban centers as rural America sees its share of jobs diminish. 

The nation added over 2.1 million jobs in the last year. Two-thirds of those jobs were found in the urban areas with a million or more people (in the chart above, that’s the first category, “Large City Core”). 

Despite the large swaths of rural America that lost jobs in the last year, non-metropolitan counties as a whole gained employment. The country’s 2,055 rural counties added 98,000 jobs last year, about 4.5 percent of the national total. Thirteen percent of the nation’s workforce lived in rural counties in June of this year, down slightly from 2017. Rural counties are those outside metropolitan areas with no city larger than 50,000. 

Change in Employment, June 2017-18

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The map above shows whether counties gained or lost jobs between June 2017 and June 2018. Click on any county and you’ll get jobs information for that place. 

The more urban the area, the stronger was the job growth in the last year. The central cities in urban areas of over 1 million people increased jobs by 1.7 percent since June 2017, about twice the rate of rural America. 

Moreover, the nation’s most rural counties — those with no town larger than 10,000 people — saw an absolute decline in the number of people available to work. The rural workforce dropped by about 8,000 people in the last year. 

The unemployment rate is under 4.5 percent in rural and urban counties.