Gap in nonfarm earnings for metro and nonmetro counties remains wide but has narrowed slightly

A chart showing nonfarm earnings per job, years 1979 to 2009.

Real nonfarm earnings per job were essentially unchanged in 2009. Nonfarm earnings make up 96 percent of total farm and nonfarm earnings (from wages, salaries, and self-employment) in nonmetro counties and fully 99.6 percent of earnings in metro counties. The trend in average nonfarm earnings per job in metro versus nonmetro areas is one measure of the changing urban-rural wage gap. In 2009, the average metro job paid $53,373 while the average job in a nonmetro county paid $36,920. Over the past 30 years, average metro earnings per job have grown faster than nonmetro earnings per job. As a result, average nonmetro earnings per job were equal to 69 percent of the metro average in 2009, compared with 81 percent in the late 1970s. This gap, however, appears to have narrowed in the wake of the 2001 recession, and also during the 2007-09 recession. This chart is found in the Rural Poverty & Well-being topic on the ERS website, updated May 27, 2012.

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