The pace of job growth in rural America increased slightly in July but remained about half the rate of job growth seen in major metropolitan areas.

The slower growth rate in nonmetropolitan areas means that U.S. employment continues to shift toward urban markets and away from rural ones.

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau’s latest income report shows no significant gains in the earnings of rural residents from 2016 to 2017 but does indicate a slight decline in the percentage of people living in poverty in rural areas.

Overall employment in rural (nonmetropolitan) areas grew by about 0.7% from July 2017 to July 2018, the latest month for which county-level data is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s slightly higher rate of growth compared to the last Daily Yonder jobs report covering June 2017-2018.

In contrast, medium-sized and major-metro areas added jobs at a rate of 1.6% from July 2017 to 2018, more than twice the rate of growth for nonmetropolitan counties..

Most U.S. counties – both urban and rural – added jobs from July 2017 to 2018. Nearly nine out of every 10 urban counties added jobs during the period. About two thirds of rural counties added jobs.

The map above shows how metropolitan and rural counties fared in job change comparing June 2017 to June 2018. Green designates rural counties that gained jobs, while red shows rural counties that lost jobs.

Blue designates urban counties that added jobs. Orange shows urban counties that lost jobs.

(Click on the interactive map below to see a report on individual counties.)

The map shows job gains across most regions of the United States. Notable exceptions to that rule are the northern Great Plains, the rural Pacific Northwest, and the western half of the Mississippi Delta. Parts of western Pennsylvania and New York lost jobs, along with much of Central Appalachia.

(A Brookings Institution report said job growth was picking up in counties that shifted toward the Republican Party in the 2016 presidential election. The Daily Yonder study does not address voting patterns. But we don’t see evidence of a job surge in rural America from July 2017 to 2018. The Daily Yonder analysis is based on monthly job reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, while the other study is based on the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.)

Major Metro: urban core counties of metropolitan areas with 1 million or more residents.
Major Suburbs: Suburban counties of Major Metros
Medium Metros: urban core counties of metros with 250,000 to 999,999 residents.
Medium Suburbs: suburban counties of Medium Metros.
Small Metros: counties in metro areas under 250,000 residents.
Nonmetro Adjacent: Rural counties adjacent to a metropolitan area.
Nonmetro Remote: Rural counties not adjacent to a metropolitan area.
(Source: Daily Yonder analysis using Bureau of Labor Statistics data)

Also this week, the Census Bureau released an income report, which showed that people living in nonmetropolitan counties did not see a statistically significant change in their median income from 2016 to 2017. During the same year, median income in metropolitan areas increased by 2.2% (with a margin of error of 1.6 percentage points).

In rural areas, median income in 2017 was $47,563. Metropolitan median income was $64,265, more than a third higher than rural incomes. (Note: Those figures are not adjusted for regional differences in the cost of living.)

The poverty rate decreased in rural areas from 2016 to 2017, according to the Census report. The percentage of nonmetropolitan residents living in poverty fell by 1 point to 14.8%. The poverty rate in metropolitan areas (estimated at 11.9% in 2017) did not change by a statistically significant amount from 2016.

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