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Rural America at a Glance

The Economic Research Service recently looked at the economic trends in rural America.

The Economic Research Service recently looked at the economic trends in rural America.

Each year our agency, USDA’s Economic Research Service, produces a six-page brochure packed with information on social and economic conditions in rural areas of the nation. This information is particularly useful for agencies that develop policies and programs to assist rural areas. We recently released the 2010 edition, which focuses on the rural economy, including employment trends and demographics.

Economic developments in rural America are generally driven by national economic trends. Both nonmetro (rural) and metro areas lost jobs throughout 2008 and 2009 – nearly a million jobs in nonmetro areas and over 7 million in metro areas since the recession began at the end of 2007. In terms of percentages, the numbers were similar – 4.9 and 5.0 percent in nonmetro and metro areas respectively.

In a possible turning point, employment appears to have stabilized by the first quarter of 2010, marking the 4th quarter of a slowdown in job losses in both nonmetro and metro areas.

Which industries accounted for most of the nonmetro job losses during 2008 and 2009? Manufacturing and construction sustained the heaviest losses. Manufacturing in nonmetro counties was down 19 percent (16 percent in metro counties), and construction also fell by 19 percent (the metro counterpart was 21 percent).  Manufacturing, by the way, now employs fewer people in nonmetro areas than wholesale and retail trade. Other industries experiencing job declines in nonmetro counties included   information services and finance, while jobs in education and health service actually increased.

Moving roughly in tandem with employment trends, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate climbed for 2½ years before peaking in fourth-quarter 2009, at 9.6 percent in nonmetro areas and 10.1 percent in metro areas. By the second quarter of 2010, unemployment was moving down, with the nonmetro level reaching 9.4 percent and metro counties posting 9.7 percent.

To a large extent, migration patterns reflect what is going on in the economy. Between July 2008 and July 2009, nonmetro counties saw a slowdown in population growth, as the ratio of in-migration to out-migration declined.  The economy-related developments discouraging retirement migration and constraining other choices included falling incomes, difficulty of financing home purchases, and declining job opportunities.

Read our full report here.

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