Labor market conditions substantially impact both individual and community well-being. Important indicators of labor market conditions include the unemployment rate, employment growth, and earnings levels.
After several years of stagnation, the pace of employment growth in rural areas increased in 2014. Employment gains were significantly higher over the past year compared to previous years in the recovery period, although rural employment remains below pre-recession levels.
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 generally fare better in the labor market. This is especially true in urban areas; in 2013, median earnings for college graduates were 83 percent above the median for high school graduates in urban areas, but only 54 percent higher in rural areas.
A nice summary of rural employment and education topics (among other rural issues) is found in Rural America At A Glance, updated in the fall of each year.
This topic is organized into sections on Rural Employment and Unemployment and Rural Education.