Jobs in rural areas fewer, pay less following Great Recession

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Rural areas of the United States aren’t recovering from the Great Recession as quickly as their urban counterparts, according to new information released by USDA. Employment fell by roughly 5 percent in both rural and urban areas during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. In 2010, the first year of the recovery, urban and rural employment levels grew at comparable rates. But net job growth in rural areas since the beginning of 2011 has been almost zero, while employment in more urban counties has grown at an annual rate of 1.4 percent, USDA says.

In short, fewer people are moving to rural areas, therefore allowing the unemployment rate to fall slowly but steadily there — but it’s not because there are more jobs to be had. It’s because fewer people are there to fill them.

The employment which is occurring in rural areas is a direct result of “the discovery and extraction of energy resources” (i.e. fracking), USDA says — most notably in portions of the northern Great Plains and Mountain West, where fracking has led to growth in both population and employment. Still, the number of employed people was unchanged or had declined in more than half of the country’s rural counties.

In addition, the vast majority of workers across the country were paid less on average in 2012, whether wage earners or salaried workers, than they were prior to the recession in 2007. Unless, that is, you fell into the top quartile of earners; weekly earnings for this group increased between 2007 and 2012, heightening inequality. Interestingly, than 60 percent of high-pay-inequality counties are also high-poverty counties, USDA notes.

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