Three quarters of the counties in rural America have lower unemployment rates now than a year ago. The counties that have experienced rising unemployment are clustered west of the Mississippi River.
Unemployment in rural America turned down a smidgen in February to 9.9% , a third of a point lower than the month before. The jobless rate in rural counties is now over a point lower than it was a year ago.
The unemployment rate in exurban counties — those communities close to urban centers but with a large proportion of rural residents — dropped to 9.5%. Urban counties had an unemployment rate of 9.4% in February.
The map above shows how unemployment rates in rural America have changed from February of 2010 to February of this year. Most counties saw their unemployment rates go down. Those counties are in green. Dark green counties had unemployment rates that dropped a full point or more in the last year, according to figures supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
(Click on the map to see a larger version.)
Orange counties have higher unemployment rates this year than last. The rates in dark orange counties have rates a full percentage point or higher than in February 2010.
Three out of four rural counties have had declining unemployment rates in the last year. The 26% of rural counties that have experienced rising unemployment rates are largely clustered west of the Mississippi River.
For much of 2010, rural unemployment rates were below those in the cities. In December, however, unemployment rates in rural counties crept above those in the cities. Rural rates have remained higher than those in urban counties nationally.
[img:UERfeb.jpg]Below, you can find the fifty rural counties that have had the greatest increases and decreases in their unemployment rates. They tell two different stories.
The counties with the largest drops in unemployment can be found in the states that have been hit hardest by the recession. Nineteen of these fifty counties are in Michigan. Ten are in Alabama. Only two of these counties with dramatic decreases in unemployment rates can be found in the West — Arthur County, Nebraska, and Buffalo County, South Dakota.
Here are the fifty rural counties that have had the largest decreases in their unemployment rates since last February.
[img:feb11losers.gif]Meanwhile, in Colorado 18 counties have had increases in their unemployment rates since last February of more than one and a half percentage points. Nine parishes in Louisiana have had large increases in their unemployment rates.
Here are the fifty rural counties that have had the largest increases in their unemployment rates in the last year.