Unemployment in rural counties continued to fall in March. That’s the good news from the most recent employment figures released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The bad news is that the number of people working in rural America has dropped by more than 55,000 in the last year. Six out of 10 counties lying outside urban America have fewer jobs this March than March a year ago. (Click on the map above to find the March unemployment rate and the change in jobs from a year ago for your county.)
The small recovery in jobs over the last year has been an entirely urban phenomenon.
In March of this year, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent in the nation’s most sparsely populated communities. In February, the rural unemployment rate was 8.9 percent — and a year ago, in March 2012, the rate was 8.7 percent.
The unemployment rate in rural America is now higher than in the cities, where unemployment stood at 7.6 percent in March 2013, down from 8 percent in February. In counties that are largely rural but have cities between 10,000 and 50,000 population, the March unemployment rate stood at 8 percent. In February, unemployment in what the government calls micropolitan counties was 8.5 percent; in March 2012, it was 8.4 percent. (In our calculation, these two sets of counties — 1,976 counties without cities larger than 50,000 — constitute rural America.)
The year-to-year comparisons show little improvement in rural counties. And, in fact, in most rural and micropolitan counties, there are fewer jobs than there were a year ago.
In the map above, red counties are rural or micropolitan counties that have fewer jobs than a year ago. Green counties have the same or more jobs than in March 2012.Gray denotes metro counties.
Rural and micropolitan counties lost just over 55,000 jobs from a year ago. Almost all those jobs were lost in the most rural counties, those with towns under 10,000 people.
Urban counties, however, have gained over 1.2 million jobs since March 2012.