Two-Thirds of Rural Counties Gain Jobs from November 2018 to 2019

A familiar pattern emerges in the latest monthly employment figures. The more rural a county, the slower its job gains are.

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Job growth in rural counties continued to lag metropolitan areas in the closing months of 2019, according to the latest employment figures compiled by the federal government.

The nation’s largest metropolitan areas gained the most jobs. And rural counties located farthest from large urban centers had the slowest rate of job growth.

This article compares employment in November 2018 with November 2019. The figures, collected by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, show that most counties added jobs during the year, but growth was uneven across the country.

Almost twice as many rural counties proportionately lost jobs in the last year compared to metro job-losers. Nineteen percent of metro counties had fewer jobs at the end of the year than at the beginning. Among rural counties, 37 percent had lost jobs.

The map shows job growth or decline in every U.S. county between November 2018 and November 2019. Click on any county to find local employment figures.

Job growth was fastest in the central counties of metropolitan areas of a million or more people. Jobs in those central city counties grew by 1.8 percent in the last year.

In rural counties adjacent to metropolitan areas, the growth rate was half the central city rate, or 0.9 percent. In rural counties not adjacent to any metro area, the rate was even lower, 0.7 percent.

Generally, the more urban a county, the higher its rate of job growth.  

Job growth by geography. County category definitions: Major Metro Core: urban core counties of metropolitan areas with 1 million or more residents. Major Metro Suburbs: Suburban counties of Major Metros. Major Metro Exurbs: counties in major metros where more than a majority of the population is “rural,” by Census definition. Medium Metros Core: urban core counties of metros with 250,000 to 999,999 residents. Medium Metro Suburbs: suburban counties of Medium Metros. Small Metros: counties in metro areas under 250,000 residents. Nonmetro Near Metrot: Rural counties adjacent to a metropolitan area. Nonmetro Remote: Rural counties not adjacent to a metropolitan area. (Source: Daily Yonder analysis using Bureau of Labor Statistics data)

There are any number of local stories to be found in this data. For example, New York City continued to show surprising job losses from a year ago, down nearly 38,000 jobs from a year ago.

But New York may be rebounding slightly. In September, the Daily Yonder found that New York had lost nearly 68,000 jobs.

The biggest job gainers were the nation’s larger metro areas. Phoenix, Seattle, Houston, Miami, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Fort Worth all added tens of thousands of jobs since November 2018.

Job growth was an almost entirely urban phenomenon. The top 319 counties in total job growth were all in metro areas.

The rural county with the biggest job growth was Duplin, located in southeast North Carolina. Duplin County had 1,631 more jobs this November than November a year ago. Duplin ranked 320 in job growth out of 3,141 counties.

If Democratic presidential candidates are looking for a populist surge driven by sluggish economies, they may not find it in the early primary states. Nationally, jobs grew at a 1.5 percent rate over the last year. But all the early primary states had job growth rates higher than the national average in the last year, in both rural and urban counties.

In Iowa, which has its caucuses February 3, the job-growth rate statewide was 4 percent. In Iowa’s rural counties, jobs grew at over 3 percent in the last year.

Two other early primary states, Nevada and South Carolina, had similar job growth reports. Nevada had a 4.3 percent growth rate in the last year. South Carolina’s rate was 3 percent.

New Hampshire, the first state to hold a full-fledged primary, had a 1.6 percent job growth rate, slightly higher than the national average.

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