The rural unemployment rate edged ever-so-slightly downward in July, dropping to 9.1 percent from 9.2 percent in June.

Employment was dead in the water in July, the latest month with county-by-county data. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports saw virtually no change in the number of jobs in the nation’s 2,036 rural counties in July.

There has been a very slight increase in the number of rural jobs in the last year. According to BLS data, there are nearly 37,000 more jobs in rural counties this July than in July 2010.

The map above shows where those jobs were added. Counties that are shaded red lost jobs. (The darker the red, the more jobs lost.) The green counties gained employment. Again, the darker the green, the more jobs gained since July of last year.

To see a larger version of the map, click on it.

Minnesota appears to have made the most progress in adding rural jobs. But the jobs story is more tied to region than to state.

The oil and gas region of western North Dakota added thousands of jobs. So did the area of northern Mississippi around Tupelo.

The Northeast, northern California and Arkansas and Louisiana lost jobs.

But the jobs picture is really a patchwork. Employment in Dunn County, North Dakota, increased by 59% in the last year. Next door, in Mercer County, the number of jobs decreased by 38%.

The greatest pickup in jobs over the last year was in exurban counties. These are the counties near urban areas, but still largely rural in character. 

As you can see in the chart below, the jobs picture in urban, rural and exurban counties is stagnant. For more than a year, improvement in employment has been followed by disappointment.


Below are the 50 rural counties that lost the highest percentage of jobs from July 2010 to July 2011.


And here is the list of the 50 rural counties that gained the highest of jobs in the last year.


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