Recession Lingers in Rural America

December 6, 2017 11:08 AM
A decade after the start of the Great Recession, rural counties remain well below their pre-recession employment level.

A decade after the start of the Great Recession, rural counties remain well below their pre-recession employment level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, America’s rural counties have 770,000 fewer jobs in October 2017 than they did in 2007.

A comparison of the geography of jobs in 2007 and October 2017 by writer Bill Bishop shows a recovery that has been unequal. Generally, cities have recovered much better than rural areas from the recession, which officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. The statistics show that only 40% of urban counties have fewer jobs now than in 2007.

Rural America, however, shows two-thirds of the counties had fewer jobs in October 2017 than in 2007.

According to Bishop, job growth has been particularly concentrated in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. There are just over 9 million more jobs in the U.S. now than in 2007, but 87.5% of that gain has been in urban areas of a million people or more.

Recession Recovery From 2007 to 2017

Source: The Daily Yonder

Overall, the unemployment rate averaged at or below 4% in October. Rural unemployment rates have also dropped, not because there are more jobs, but because the total workforce has shrunk. Since 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the total number of people looking for a job in rural counties has dropped by nearly 1.1 million people.

Over the past year, the number of jobs in rural counties has increased modestly by slightly less than 200,000.

The is published by the Center for Rural Strategies, a non-profit media organization based in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and Knoxville, Tennessee. The site was developed with the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Media Democracy Fund.

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Spell Check

Senior PA Dairy Farmer
Westfield, PA
12/7/2017 07:33 AM

  Duh! We are in a rural DEPRESSION---not "recession." Conway says it's the worst "downturn since the Great Depression." What have he and his bi-partsisan Senate and House Ag Committee cronies done to fix it? Nothing! Yack, Yack about "fixing" NAFTA! This rural depression happened because, for decades, the DC "swamp" dwellers in both parties, in ALL administrations, along with the "establishment" farm/dairy/ag organizations/associations/press have been foisting global, world commodity price "Free Trade agreements" (like NAFTA!!!!) on us, eliminating any chance for US farmers to get paid American "cost of production." Without "cost of production" for AMERICAN FARMERS at the farm, they will continue to lose their private property to the fat-cat "global" speculator class. Until US "cost of production" becomes the foundational basis for meaningful federal agricultural policy reform, do not expect to see any improvement in the rural "jobs" market. There will be NO "MAGA" until US farmers get paid American "cost of production" AT THE FARM! America first!

Jim Weeber
Goshen, IN
12/20/2017 05:07 PM

  I remember about 1980 I was sweating myself to death on some labor intensive farm thing. My older Mennonite neighbor came over for something, looked at me and said; "Since before Christ when the Egyptians were pumping irrigation with the inclined plane via human power. Food has been raised with slave labor. It still is today!) Not far off guys. Don't think it will get a lot better. My 100 year dad died in January 17' and said he waited most of his life for it to get better. Never did really, though we do live better. He said the Korean "war" paid for the farm with high commodity prices and I would probably never see anything like it. So learn how to survive especially with all this grain now in bins normalizing prices at lower levels, preventing major spikes for the most part. Maybe for a long time. Stay away from the cheerleaders. Learn how to survive. Always a storm coming. Every farmer knows that is a fact. Farming has always been serious work for serious people. Merry Christmas.

Jim Weeber
Goshen, IN
12/7/2017 07:54 AM

  Technology has affected the number of people needed on farm operations significantly. Less people are required to get things done as agriculture embraces all the technology it thinks can be afforded. I think it has led to excessive production reducing commodity prices. Many of the farm magazines I receive push hi-tech so hard it disgusts and sickens me. In essence putting farmers against farmers for maximum lowest cost production. Not as much about raising a family on the farm as in the recent past. They are being pushed off more quickly than ever before. This while more nonfarm fingers dip into the agricultural pie deeper as time moves forward. The cost of employing a man continues to rise for all the reasons one may imagine. Three years ago a local global footprint mill manager told me if he pays a man $40K a year it costs $75,000 to employ him. Consequently hiring manpower or womanpower is avoided more than ever before. Especially with the health insurance difficulties now widespread across the nation. Lets not forget computer and machinery operation skills are more complex and require people prepared for the hi-tech environment. Eliminating less prepared employment candidates. Not much lower IQ work on the farm anymore. Where will it lead? I don't know. A local factory manager said he has been running out of "farm boys" for about a generation and it is a problem. Farms have historically been incubators for top drawer work ethic employees and achievers. Obviously there will be fewer in the future. So are we better off with all our true small family farm operations eliminated? Food production concentrated into fewer hands? Lenders with risk concentrated to fewer operations in the name of hi-tech efficiency? Less employment opportunity regardless of economic conditions? Maybe our agricultural people are being treated more like livestock too. Wasn't like this when I graduated from Purdue. Good luck everybody.