The graph shows the growth in employment as both a percentage increase (left axis, blue columns) and a real number increase (right axis, red line). The farther a county is from the core of a major urban area, the more anemic its job growth was. The exception is in “small cities” (defined below), which grew at a rate comparable to major metropolitan areas. Definitions: “large city core”: central urban counties of metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) of 1 million or more; “large city suburbs”: suburbs of an MSA of 1 million or more; “medium city core”: central urban counties of MSAs from 250,000 to 999,999 in population; “medium city suburbs”: the suburbs of MSAs from 250,000 to 999,999 in population; “small city”: MSAs with populations of 50,000 to 249,999. “Rural, near city” are nonmetro counties that abut an MSA. “Rural remote” are nonmetro counties that do not abut an MSA. (Source: Daily Yonder/Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census)

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More than four out of 10 rural counties lost jobs in the past year, according to a Daily Yonder analysis of federal data. 

In contrast, only 14 percent of urban counties saw a decline in jobs from June 2017 to June 2018. 

The jobs survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been telling the same story for the past several years: Employment is concentrating in the nation’s urban centers as rural America sees its share of jobs diminish. 

The nation added over 2.1 million jobs in the last year. Two-thirds of those jobs were found in the urban areas with a million or more people (in the chart above, that’s the first category, “Large City Core”). 

Despite the large swaths of rural America that lost jobs in the last year, non-metropolitan counties as a whole gained employment. The country’s 2,055 rural counties added 98,000 jobs last year, about 4.5 percent of the national total. Thirteen percent of the nation’s workforce lived in rural counties in June of this year, down slightly from 2017. Rural counties are those outside metropolitan areas with no city larger than 50,000. 

Change in Employment, June 2017-18


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The map above shows whether counties gained or lost jobs between June 2017 and June 2018. Click on any county and you’ll get jobs information for that place. 

The more urban the area, the stronger was the job growth in the last year. The central cities in urban areas of over 1 million people increased jobs by 1.7 percent since June 2017, about twice the rate of rural America. 

Moreover, the nation’s most rural counties — those with no town larger than 10,000 people — saw an absolute decline in the number of people available to work. The rural workforce dropped by about 8,000 people in the last year. 

The unemployment rate is under 4.5 percent in rural and urban counties.