Unemployment remains steady in rural America

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28- Employment rates in rural areas are not significantly improving, according to USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) report, “Rural America at a Glance: 2011 Edition.” However, ERS reports that three in five of the nation's counties did have some job growth between 2010 and 2011. 


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The report divides population and employment measurements into metro and nonmetro, or rural, areas. Generally, “Rural America at a Glance” indicates that employment in rural areas is not increasing, but remaining at a steady rate. 


“Nonmetro unemployment fell slowly in 2010 and more rapidly in first-quarter 2011 before leveling off in the second quarter, similar to the national trend,” according to the report. “The apparent improvement, however, largely reflects a decline in the labor force participation rate; the percentage of rural adults who were employed has not risen in recent quarters.”


However, the average time spent looking for work continued to rise in both metro and nonmetro areas between 2009 and 2010. By second-quarter 2011, the share of unemployed people looking for work for more than one year was the highest on record. Nonmetro areas had 1.9 million unemployed people in second-quarter 2011.


“In long periods of weak labor market conditions such as this, however, many unemployed workers become discouraged and stop seeking work because they believe none is available,” according to the report. “A broader measure of unemployment includes discouraged unemployed workers, as well as people working part-time but willing to work a full-time job if one were available.”


The nation's poverty rate in 2011 was the highest since 1994. “Rural America at a Glance” reports that between 2008 and 2009, the poverty rate in nonmetro areas grew by 1.5 percentage points, from 15.1 to 16.6 percent, and by 1 percentage point in metro areas.


A population shift from rural, isolated areas to counties with closer access to metro areas is also noted in the ERS report. During the past decade, “in the 433 nonmetro counties that were not adjacent to any metro area and that did not include any urban area of 2,500 or more people, population declined by 1.3 percent. In contrast, nonmetro counties containing cities of 20,000 or more people (whether adjacent or not) grew by 6.9 percent.”


For the full report go here: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB85/EIB85.pdf


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