Two-Thirds of Rural America See Job Gains Since ’09

[imgbelt img=Oct2010map528.jpg]Most rural counties gained jobs between October 2009 and 2010. But unemployment rates dropped most east of the Mississippi River, where the recession struck the hardest.


[imgcontainer] [img:Oct2010map528.jpg] [source]Roberto Gallardo/Daily Yonder

This map shows the change in unemployment rates between October 2009 and October 2010 in all rural counties. Click on the map to see a larger version.

Unemployment in rural America continued to decline in October, if only by a smidgen.

The unemployment rate dropped one tenth of one percent from September to October in rural, urban and exurban counties.

In October, the unemployment rate in rural America stood at 8.8%, which is slightly below the national rate of 9%.

Unemployment in urban counties was 9.2%.

In other words, recovery is slow, uneven — and widespread.

Two-thirds of the nation’s rural counties had lower unemployment rates this October than October of 2009.

The map above compares unemployment rates in October of ’09 and this year. To see a bigger version, click on the map.

Blue counties had lower October unemployment rates this year than last. The dark blue counties had unemployment rate reductions of more than one percentage point.

Reddish-brown counties had higher unemployment in October than in 2009. Dark red counties had the largest increases in local unemployment rates.

Generally, the rural communities that were hit the hardest by the recession initially show the greatest decline in unemployment rates over the last year. The Carolinas, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan all have experienced relatively large drops in their unemployment rates over the last year.

The trend reverses as you head west of the Mississippi, where rates are often higher than a year ago. Colorado, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, California, western Montana and parts of Oregon all report higher unemployment rates this October.

Wyoming, which is in the middle of a gas and oil boom, shows the largest declines in unemployment of the western states.

Economic reports in the states show muted optimism for 2011.

[img:UROct2010.jpg]“This is going to be the best year in four years,” University of South Carolina economist Doug Woodward predicted during the 30th annual Darla Moore School of Business Economic Outlook Conference.

The USC report predicted that South Carolina’s urban areas would lead the recovery.

Ditto in North Carolina, where economists predict stronger recovery in the cities than in the countryside.

Economists in Oklahoma were also seeing signs of a recovery. Oklahoma State University economist Russell Evans predicted the state would see a one percentage point gain in employment in 2011.

Evans said the recovery would lag in the cities, where companies continue to substitute machines for labor. Rural areas of Oklahoma, Evans said, had been relatively insulated from the recession and would be perked up by an increase in oil and gas activity.

In farming dominated counties — what Patchwork Nation calls “Tractor Country” — unemployment remains remarkably low. Tractor Country counties have unemployment rates that average 5.1%, according to Dante Chinni.

Lower unemployment rates, however, do not always mean more jobs. Rates can fall because fewer people are looking for work, after all.

While North Carolina shows general improvement in rural unemployment rates, this doesn’t mean rural counties there are adding jobs. In fact, when we listed the 50 rural counties that lost the most jobs in the last year, 20 were in North Carolina.

Here is the list of the 50 rural counties that lost the most jobs between October 2009 and October 2010.

[img:Oct10losing.gif]Alabama, Pennsylvania and Tennessee all had multiple counties on the list of the 50 rural counties that gained the most jobs in the last year.


Roberto Gallardo is a research associate at the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University.