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.
Rural America still isn’t back.
Nearly six out of 10 (58.4%) rural counties had fewer jobs this July than in July of 2019, before anyone had heard of Covid-19. Rural counties would have to add more than 210,000 jobs just to get back to where employment was three years ago.
Most cities have recovered the jobs they lost in the pandemic. Nationwide, there were 1.1 million more jobs this July than three years ago.
But as the map above shows, the employment gains have been concentrated in particular regions of the country. Most U.S. counties – 53% – had fewer people working this July than in July of 2019.
The map above shows these two different Americas. Click on the “Rural” and “Urban” buttons to see how each fared.
Click on any county and you will see the change in jobs there over the last three years.
The map reveals some big trends. For example, urban counties on the coasts have had trouble recovering their pre-pandemic levels of employment.
Los Angeles County had 142,000 fewer jobs this July than in July 2019. Nearby Orange County is also not back to 2019 levels of employment. The same is true up and down the coast of California. Many urban areas along the East Coast – from New York City to Miami – have the same problem.
In rural America, the oil producing counties that were booming in 2019 have not recovered. Williams County, North Dakota, which was a job-producing machine just a few years, ago has nearly 18% fewer jobs now than in 2019.
The big job gains are found in some familiar urban regions: Austin, Dallas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Houston. Suburban areas did better than central cities. In rural America, vacationland counties showed the largest increases.
The big picture, however, is that while the rest of the country had about 1% more jobs this July compared to three years ago, rural America showed a 1% drop in employment.
And rural counties are not catching up. In the last 12 months, rural communities have added jobs, but at only half the rate as the rest of the country.