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Rural America lost a quarter million jobs from February to March 2020 in the first wave of job cuts resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rural employment declined from 20.3 million jobs in February to about 20 million in March, a 1.2% loss in employment.
As bad as things were for rural workers, they were worse in metropolitan areas. Metropolitan counties lost 2.6 million jobs from February to March, a drop of 1.9%.
Three-quarters of the metropolitan jobs lost were in the nation’s largest cities – metropolitan areas with more than 1 million residents.
The job figures come from the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report officially covers the month of March, and the social distancing and lockdowns that caused the job losses got underway in earnest about halfway through the month.
Rural counties were much slower to add jobs following the 2008 Great Recession. Now rural counties seem to be slower losing jobs in response to the pandemic, at least for now.
In this first measurement of the pandemic’s impact on jobs, employment nationally dropped 1.8% between February and March. Only about a fifth of rural counties lost jobs at that rate or higher.
Another fifth of rural counties gained jobs in March, compared to February. Only 6.5% of urban counties gained jobs during the period.
The map above shows the change in jobs between February and March.
If you click on the map, you can find employment data for individual counties.
Normally in our job reports, we compare the same months in different years, to diminish the effect of seasonal employment variations. From February 2019 to February 2020, the nation gained 1.91 million jobs.
From March 2019 to March 2020, jobs were down 903,000 jobs.
One thing to note is how state borders seem to affect job gain or loss – compare Minnesota with North and South Dakota, for example. Some of this difference is likely due to how governments collect and report job figures, not due to economic conditions on the ground.
The largest rural job loss was in LaSalle County, Illinois, which dropped just over 2,300 jobs from February to March. Eagle County, Colorado, lost 2,172 jobs. Eagle County, where Vail and other ski resorts are located, was one of the early hotspots for the virus in rural America.
The largest job gains were in two tourist counties, Taney County, Missouri, home of Branson, and Sevier County, Tennessee, home of Dollywood and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These may well be seasonal job gains that don’t yet reflect the impact of the virus on tourism.
We will see more of the jobs picture when the local employment figures are released for April, about a month from now.