Rural Shows Net Gain in Jobs over Last Year

Though rural areas and small cities have more jobs than they did at this time last year, the rate of growth remains slower than in urban areas. From April 2015 to April 2016, a third of rural counties saw a net decline in the number of jobs.


More than nine out of 90 new jobs created in the last year were in the nation’s metropolitan counties, according to new data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment rates dropped in rural as well as urban America. But there is a trend toward a concentration of new jobs in urban counties. Only 7 percent of new jobs since April 2015 were located in rural counties or in micropolitan counties, those with towns between 10,000 and 50,000 people.

As a result, the number of unemployed people in urban counties dropped 7.5 percent since April 2015. In rural counties, the number of unemployed fell 4.8 percent over the same period. In micropolitan counties, the number of unemployed residents fell only 4 percent.

Only 15 percent of urban counties lost jobs in the last year.

Among the micropolitan counties, 28 percent lost jobs.

And over 38 percent of rural counties lost jobs since April a year ago.

Patterns on the jobs map have changed over the last several years. The middle of the country used to boast the largest job gains. But since oil and gas prices began dropping in June 2014, employment has cooled in much of this region. Williams County, North Dakota, in the heart of that state’s energy industry, lost over 4,700 jobs in the last year, for example.

Meanwhile, the large metropolitan areas added jobs by the basketful. Just 10 metro counties added 403,000 jobs in the last year, nearly 20 percent of the urban total. These counties included Los Angeles, Maricopa (Phoenix), Cook (Chicago), Dallas, Wayne (Detroit), Travis (Austin) and Multnomah (Portland).

Unemployment rates continued to drop across the country, but faster in urban counties than in rural. The urban unemployment rate in April was 4.6 percent, down from 5 percent in April 2015.

The unemployment rate in micropolitan counties this April was 5.1 percent, reduced from 5.3 percent last year.

And the unemployment rate in rural America was 5.4 percent this April, down from 5.6 percent a year ago.