Recession Lingers in Rural America

A decade after the start of the Great Recession, rural counties remain well below their pre-recession employment level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, America’s rural counties have 770,000 fewer jobs in October 2017 than they did in 2007.

A comparison of the geography of jobs in 2007 and October 2017 by writer Bill Bishop shows a recovery that has been unequal. Generally, cities have recovered much better than rural areas from the recession, which officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. The statistics show that only 40% of urban counties have fewer jobs now than in 2007.

Rural America, however, shows two-thirds of the counties had fewer jobs in October 2017 than in 2007.

According to Bishop, job growth has been particularly concentrated in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. There are just over 9 million more jobs in the U.S. now than in 2007, but 87.5% of that gain has been in urban areas of a million people or more.

Recession Recovery From 2007 to 2017

Source: The Daily Yonder

Overall, the unemployment rate averaged at or below 4% in October. Rural unemployment rates have also dropped, not because there are more jobs, but because the total workforce has shrunk. Since 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the total number of people looking for a job in rural counties has dropped by nearly 1.1 million people.

Over the past year, the number of jobs in rural counties has increased modestly by slightly less than 200,000.

The is published by the Center for Rural Strategies, a non-profit media organization based in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and Knoxville, Tennessee. The site was developed with the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Media Democracy Fund.


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