The Daily Yonder's coverage of rural economic issues, including workforce development and the future of work in rural America, is supported in part by Microsoft.
The nation stopped adding jobs at the end of last year, reversing a months-long trend of employment gains. The drop-off in jobs in the last two months of 2020 was a trend found in big cities and rural communities alike.
The number of jobs plummeted with the spread of the coronavirus a year ago, but the economy began adding jobs by late spring 2020. Those gains continued until this fall, and then stopped. In November and December, rural and urban America began shedding jobs again.
You can see in the graph above that urban and rural areas were adding jobs through the spring, summer and early fall, recovering from the big drop early last year. In November, however, that progress stopped and now has begun to reverse.
Job losses in the past year are still the largest in major metropolitan areas, those with a million or more people. Counties in these urban regions had 6.2% fewer jobs in December 2020 than in December 2019, according to the latest employment data released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Rural areas had 3.2% fewer jobs in December 2020 compared to December the year before.
But big cities, smaller metropolitan areas and rural counties all have experienced a downturn beginning in November and continuing in December.
Nationally, there were 8.4 million fewer jobs this December than in December 2019. Rural counties have 650,000 fewer jobs this year than at the same time in 2019.
The map shows job losses and gains from December 2019 to December 2020. Dark green counties are rural communities that gained jobs in this time. Light green counties are rural that lost jobs but at a slower rate than the national average of a negative 5.3%. Rural counties in red lost jobs at more than the national rate of minus 5.3%.
Yellow counties are urban areas that lost jobs at a slower rate than the national average. Orange counties are urban that lost jobs at faster the national rate of minus 5.3%.
You can see from the map that job losses and gains are not evenly spread across the country. North Dakota oil and gas counties lost the most jobs among rural communities. Harris County, Texas – otherwise known as Houston – lost 113,00 jobs in the last year. Los Angeles County lost 576,000 jobs in the last year. Marion County, Indiana, (Indianapolis) gained 11,400 jobs in the last year, the most in the nation.