Rural Economy

(Selected research findings from FY18)

healthcare workers talking in hallwayRural healthcare employment growth lags the Nation’s and shows modest local impact.

The healthcare industry is growing faster than any other U.S. industry and is projected to add the most jobs of any industry by 2024. A recent ERS report analyzed trends in rural employment shares in inpatient healthcare between 2001 and 2015, and estimated the multiplier effect of rural inpatient healthcare facility jobs. The study found that rural healthcare employment has not kept pace with national trends, experiencing a 2-percent decline from 2011 to 2015. Inpatient healthcare facilities experienced modest employment gains in rural counties from 2001 to 2015. For rural areas as a whole, the gains did not generate additional local employment beyond employees in those facilities; among micropolitan counties, which are more urbanized than other rural counties, multiplier effects were slightly larger.

Rural America’s economy continues to experience increased employment but post-recession recovery lags that of urban areas.

ERS provides up-to-date information on rural economic and demographic trends in an annual series, Rural America at a Glance. The 2017 report noted that the rural economy continues to recover from the Great Recession but more slowly than urban economies.  For rural areas as a whole, employment has increased modestly since 2011 and median incomes are rising once again.  Nonetheless, rural employment has not returned to its pre-recession level, and job growth since 2011 has been well below the urban growth rate.  Rural poverty rates remain higher than in urban areas, especially in the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, and the Rio Grande Valley. Meanwhile, the rural population loss earlier in the decade may have ended, with signs of population recovery in many parts of rural America in 2015-16.

people working in rural manufacturing plantsPositive effects of Value Added Grants Program on rural business survival and growth.

This ERS report assessed the impact of Rural Development’s Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program on the survival and employment growth of recipient businesses, outcomes that are related to the program goals of saving and creating jobs. The study found that businesses that received VAPG grants between 2001 and 2013 were less likely to have failed 6 years after receipt than similar businesses that did not receive grants, and larger VAPG grants had a larger impact on business survival. The grants also enabled recipients to employ more workers than similar non-recipient businesses; employment impacts were estimated to be 40 jobs per $1 million of grants. While some of the impact may be due to other assistance, VAPG grants may have played a catalytic role in leveraging sources of financial capital.

Rural residents were less likely than urban residents to engage in telehealth activities.

The benefits of telehealth—health services or activities conducted via phone, Internet, and other technologies—may be greater in rural areas, where remoteness and provider shortages may make accessing health care more difficult for rural residents. Using detailed 2015 household data, ERS analysis shows that telehealth activities were less frequent in rural areas among consumers 15 years and older. The online activities studied include health research; health maintenance (communication with health providers, including communicating with medical practitioners, maintaining records, and paying bills); and health monitoring via devices that exchange data remotely with medical personnel. Engagement in telehealth activities was higher among those with more education.