Employment & Education
Labor market conditions are of great importance in rural America
as elsewhere, having a powerful impact on both individual and
community well-being. Important indicators of labor market
conditions include the unemployment rate, employment growth, and
Unemployment rates in nonmetro areas are similar to rates in
metro areas, though with wide geographic variation. The
impact of the 2007-09 recession on unemployment was similar in
metro and nonmetro areas, as reported in Rural America at a Glance,
The employment decline during the 2007-09 recession was also
similar in magnitude in metro and nonmetro areas. However,
over longer periods, employment growth rates have generally been
higher in metro areas, in part because the most rapidly growing
nonmetro areas frequently attain metro status at some
Average earnings are substantially lower among nonmetro workers.
The lower rural earnings levels reflect lower shares of highly
skilled jobs and lower returns to college degrees in rural labor
Educational attainment is closely linked to labor market
outcomes, as those who are more highly educated generally receive
higher earnings and are less likely to be unemployed.
Educational attainment in nonmetro areas has increased over time.
Nonmetro areas are closing the gap with metro areas in high school
completion, but the college completion gap is growing. Workers with
higher levels of educational attainment typically fare better in
the labor market and recent data confirms this to be true at the
end of the last decade. ERS has most recently examined educational
attainment and how it is rewarded in labor markets in Rural America at a Glance,
ERS research provides information about:
- Variation in employment and unemployment trends between
nonmetro and metro areas and across nonmetro county types and
- Employment trends in nonmetro areas by industry
- Characteristics of the nonmetro unemployed
- Factors affecting earnings differences between metro and
- Trends in nonmetro educational attainment, including
unemployment and poverty rates by attainment level.
We've redesigned our website. You may be interested in browsing
the material (including topics listed above) that was available in
the Rural Labor and Education briefing room, which
is available in our archive. It includes a discussion of the
location and characteristics of low-education counties.