In the last local-level unemployment data to be released before Tuesday’s election, the unemployment rate in rural America remains unchanged from a year ago.
This September the unemployment rate in rural (“noncore”) counties was 5.1 percent, unchanged from September 2015. In so-called micropolitan counties (nonmetropolitan communities with towns between 10,000 and 50,000 people), the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5 percent. September is the latest data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The unemployment rate in cities was also unchanged, at 4.8 percent.
The national rates, however, mask local differences. The map shows job losses or gains in all U.S. counties.
You can see that there are very few metropolitan counties that lost jobs in the last year, just under 18 percent of the total. In rural America, 35 percent of counties lost jobs in the last 12 months.
Job losses are particularly noticeable down the center of the country. The oil and gas areas of Oklahoma and Texas show widespread job losses. Meanwhile, except for a few counties in New York City, the coasts show steady job growth.
In fact, two-thirds of the jobs added in the last year were in counties located in cities of a million or more people. Those counties have 57 percent of the jobs in the country, but they corralled 66 percent of all new jobs. Counties in cities of a million or more people have the lowest aggregate unemployment rate in the country, at 4.7 percent.
In total, cities gained 2.67 million jobs in the last year. Rural America added 195,000. The city job-growth rate was about 2.1 percent, while the non-city growth rate was less than half that.
Political scientists say that elections are often reflections of how people perceive the condition of the country at the time votes are cast. You can look at the map and judge for yourself which areas of the country have cause to feel the pinch of unemployment.
Bill Bishop is founding co-editor of the Daily Yonder.