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Nonmetro creative class counties found in nearly every State

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The creative class thesis—that towns need to attract engineers, architects, artists, and people in other creative occupations to compete in today's economy—may be particularly relevant to rural communities, which tend to lose much of their talent when young adults leave to attend college, pursue employment opportunities in urban areas, or join the armed forces. The ERS creative class codes indicate a county's share of population employed in occupations that require "thinking creatively." In 2007-11, 217 nonmetro counties ranked in the top 25 percent in the share of employment in creative class occupations. While rural counties generally lost employment and population in 2012-13, rural creative class counties gained, although at half the pace of urban creative class counties. Clusters of rural creative class counties are found in areas of natural beauty, such as the Rocky Mountains and northern New England, which are attractive places to live. Adjacency to metropolitan areas and the presence of university or college towns are also associated with many rural creative class counties across the U.S. This map and the related underlying data are found in the ERS data product, Creative Class County Codes, updated May 2014.

On average, rural veterans are older than nonveterans

Friday, May 23, 2014

Nearly 4 million veterans reside in rural America (defined here as residents of nonmetropolitan counties). Rural veterans are an aging and increasingly diverse group of men and women who comprise nearly 11 percent of the rural adult population, although their numbers are consistently declining. The share of rural veterans differs by age, ranging from less than 3 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds up to 25 percent of those aged 65 and older. The age distribution of rural veterans tends to be older than nonveterans; nearly half of rural veterans were age 65 or older in 2012, compared with only 18 percent of rural nonveterans. The aging of the rural veteran population is largely due to the fact that a smaller share of the population now serves in the military than in the past. For instance, nearly 20 percent of American men served in the military during World War II, compared to less than 1 percent today. This chart comes from Rural Veterans at a Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Rural counties lead growth in U.S. natural gas production

Monday, April 28, 2014

From 2000 to 2011, onshore gross withdrawals of natural gas in the lower 48 States increased by about 47 percent, reaching historic highs in every year after 2006. The most rural of counties—those that are outside the commuting area of a metropolitan area and lack a core urban area of at least 10,000 people, so called “nonmetro noncore”—accounted for nearly half of the growth in gas production. This growth is driven by nonmetro noncore gas-producing areas in the country’s midsection. Several metropolitan areas, notably the Fort Worth area in Texas, also contributed to the growth in natural gas production. Nonmetro micropolitan counties (nonmetro counties with small cities) as a whole accounted for only about 13 percent of the growth in natural gas production from 2000 to 2011. This chart and the underlying data (which include data on natural gas and oil production, as well as indicators of the degree of rurality) are found in the ERS data product, County-level Oil and Gas Production in the U.S., released in January 2014.

Rural counties drive the 2000-11 growth in U.S. onshore production of oil and natural gas

Friday, February 21, 2014

From 2000 to 2011, onshore gross withdrawals of natural gas in the lower 48 States increased by about 47 percent, reaching historic highs in every year after 2006. Over the same period, withdrawals of oil increased by 11 percent, with much of that growth occurring between 2007 and 2011. Rural counties (nonmetro noncore) accounted for almost all of the growth in oil production and a large share of the growth in gas production based on newly released data from ERS on County-level Oil and Gas Production in the U.S. While just over 35 percent of counties in the lower 48 States reported some level of oil or natural gas production during 2000-11, sizeable changes in production levels were more concentrated. Interestingly, the number of counties with an increase in oil and gas production of $20 million or more over the decade (218 counties) was nearly the same as the number (212) with a decrease of $20 million or more. This map is found in the Documentation and Maps page of the data product County-level Oil and Gas Production in the U.S., and also in the Amber Waves article, "Onshore Oil and Gas Development in the Lower 48 States: Introducing a County-Level Database of Production for 2000-2011."

Rural veterans more likely to graduate from high school and obtain college degrees

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The current military recruitment standard requiring a high school diploma or equivalent (in most cases) explains the much lower percentage of high school dropouts among rural veterans—9.5 percent compared with nearly 15 percent among all rural adults. In addition, about 53 percent of veterans living in rural counties in 2011 had completed at least some formal education beyond high school, including 21 percent who earned a bachelor’s degree or higher (compared with 19 percent for all rural adults). Higher educational attainment may help explain some of the economic advantage enjoyed by rural veterans—in 2011, 6 percent of rural veterans were living at or below the poverty line, compared to 15 percent of all rural adults. This chart is found in the ERS report, Rural Veterans At A Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Minorities represent a lower share of rural veterans than of the rural population

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Between 1992 and 2011, the share of rural veterans representing racial-ethnic minorities increased from 6 to 10 percent. Despite this increase, rural minorities remain under-represented relative to their 18.4-percent share of the adult rural population. For example, while Hispanic men and women accounted for 7 percent of the rural population in 2011, they represented only about 2 percent of rural veterans that year. Rapid population growth in the 1980s and 1990s among rural Hispanics was led by young-adult job seekers, mostly foreign-born—these newcomers were typically less inclined to volunteer for military service and were less likely to meet the military’s enlistment requirements. Rural Hispanic immigrants have been aging into family formation, settling into permanent residence, and raising children who may be more inclined to consider and qualify for military service. African Americans and Native Americans also account for a lower share of rural veterans relative to their share of the rural population, although the gap is less pronounced. This chart is found in the ERS report, Rural Veterans At A Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Rural veterans work in higher-paying industries

Friday, November 8, 2013

Employment challenges facing recent military veterans are similar to those faced by all new civilian labor force entrants. In addition to these challenges, veterans also face higher rates of disability. The practical skills recent veterans have acquired are often superior to those of their nonveteran peers. As a result, the positive economic impacts veterans are likely making in rural America once they find work and start their careers can be seen in employment differences by industry. Rural veterans were more likely than rural nonveterans to be employed in higher-skilled, higher-paying industries in 2011, including manufacturing and professional and business services. While lower-paying industries such as education and health services, and leisure and hospitality (hotels, restaurants, etc.) employed over 30 percent of rural nonveteran workers in 2011, only 17 percent of rural veterans worked in these service industries. Just over 6 percent of rural veterans worked in agriculture (including fishing, forestry, and hunting). This chart is found in the ERS report Rural Veterans At A Glance, EB-25, November 2013.

Recent job trends vary widely among nonmetro counties

Thursday, July 11, 2013

All sectors of the economy were not equally affected by the 2007-09 economic recession and the subsequent recovery. Specialization within local economies has shaped county-to-county differences in recent rural (nonmetro) growth in jobs. Boosted by high farm income and, in some areas, booming gas-extraction activities, farming-dependent counties have seen job growth for the first time in many years, growing during and after the recession. Manufacturing counties, affected by global competition, showed weak job growth in the early 2000s, followed by substantial losses during the recession. Recreation counties, which experienced above-average job growth in 2001-07, lost jobs in 2007-09 as their housing markets collapsed and the recession reduced tourism. Weak postrecession job growth did not bring jobs back to prerecession levels in most nonmetro counties by 2011. County economic types were defined by ERS in 2004 and are scheduled to be updated next year. This chart combines the ERS county typology codes with employment data from U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Broadband Internet increases for rural households, but not universally

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Starting from nonexistent subscription rates in the early 1990s, the rural Internet subscription rate more than doubled between 1998 and 2001 (from less than 4 million households to 8 million households). Yearly gains in household Internet subscriptions, however, have slowed considerably since 2001. Early adopters of Internet technology (both urban and rural) relied heavily on dialup connections, but use of broadband technologies expanded rapidly starting in 2003. Nonetheless, not until 2007 did the majority of the Nation’s households gain Internet access using broadband technologies. The majority of rural households did not use broadband technologies until 2009. This chart is found in the ERS bulletin, Rural Broadband At A Glance: 2013 Edition, June 2013.

Nonmetro real wages fell in 2010 and 2011

Monday, January 7, 2013

After 2 years of economic recovery, improvements in nonmetro labor markets remain limited. While the 2007-09 recession was less severe in nonmetro areas, the subsequent economic recovery appears to be slower than in metro areas. Weak labor demand has put downward pressure on hourly wages, although wage declines have been smaller in nonmetro than metro areas. Real hourly wages grew through 2009, but fell in 2010 and 2011. The median hourly wage for all workers (excluding the self-employed), measured in constant 2011 dollars, was estimated at $14.53 in nonmetro counties and $17.04 in metro areas in 2011, down by $0.19 and $0.52, respectively, from their peak in 2009. Nonmetro real wages fell by 0.4% in 2010 and 0.9% in 2011, compared to a decline of about 1.5% in metro areas in both years. The larger wage declines registered in metro areas in 2010 and 2011 may in part reflect the fact that metro area unemployment was about one-half of a percentage point higher than in nonmetro counties. This chart appears in the 2012 edition of Rural America At A Glance, December 2012.

Natural gas extraction creates local jobs in the short term

Friday, December 21, 2012

Using hydraulic fracturing—a method of cracking rock by injecting water, sand, and chemicals under high pressure—drilling companies have increased extraction of natural gas from rock formations like shale. The three Western States of Colorado, Texas, and Wyoming saw large increases in gas production in the 2000s, most of which came from such unconventional sources. Not all counties in each State were close enough to the activity to benefit economically from the boom. On average, counties participating in the gas production boom saw a larger percent increase in employment, wage and salary income, and median household income and a larger decrease in the poverty between 1999 and 2007 than counties not participating. Still, for the scale of extraction that occurred in the three States, the number of jobs added to local economies is multiple times below what has been projected for the development of shale gas formations in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. This chart appears in the December 2012 edition of Amber Waves magazine.

Off-farm business ventures generate more income than onfarm diversification

Monday, November 19, 2012

Historically, many U.S. farm households have engaged in other income-generating activities independent of commodity production to support their lifestyles and to help maintain the economic viability of their farm operations. These business ventures can be classified into two broad categories distinguished by the degree to which farm resources are employed or leveraged. Onfarm diversification uses amenities and other attributes of farmland resources and lifestyles to create additional businesses, while other farms operate off-farm businesses in other sectors of their local economy. In 2007, farm households engaged in 791,000 distinct alternative entrepreneurial ventures that generated $26.7 billion in household income. Onfarm diversification and off-farm business ventures each accounted for about half of these activities, but off-farm business ventures generated more than 80 percent of noncommodity business income accruing to farm households. This chart is found in the ERS report, Multi-Enterprising Farm Households: The Importance of Their Alternative Business Ventures in the Rural Economy, EIB-101, October 2012.

Opportunities for rural wealth creation depend on location and timing of investment

Thursday, November 15, 2012

As the location and boom-bust cycle in ethanol production demonstrates, opportunities for wealth creation (in this case, investing in physical business assets) can be influenced by both temporal and spatial factors. The ethanol production boom in the United States was stimulated by rising oil and gasoline prices relative to corn prices, efficiency improvements in ethanol processing technology, and Federal and State government policies that provided incentives for ethanol production. These temporally-specific drivers, together with comparative advantages of particular locations for ethanol processing--favorable access to corn production and transportation infrastructure--led to rapid expansion of ethanol plants in many rural communities, especially in the Corn Belt over the last decade. In rural places lacking these advantages, ethanol production was less likely to be profitable, and efforts to promote it could impede wealth creation. Even where such advantages exist, changes in the temporal context, such as changes in the relative price of ethanol and corn, have reduced profits and caused some plants to go out of business. This chart appears in "Creating Rural Wealth: A New Lens for Rural Development Efforts" in the September 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

Farms with more production value are more likely to have broadband access

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

One of the salient features of the Internet is its capacity to provide information quickly and cheaply compared to other dissemination methods, which may reduce the costs of communicating, transacting, and sourcing information. With improved information and knowledge, individuals' perception of products and services provided by businesses would be more accurate. As a result, Internet use may lead to greater efficiency in the agricultural and other rural business sectors. With respect to broadband usage among farm businesses, respondents to the 2007 Agricultural Resources Management Survey (ARMS) were asked if they had Internet access and if it was "high-speed." A majority of farms (63 percent) reported using the Internet in their farm business. Among those using the Internet, the predominant access method was broadband and this group of users accounted for over 60 percent of U.S. farm production. This chart appeared in the report, Broadband Internet's Value for Rural America, ERR-78, August 2009.

Increases in the U.S. poverty rate were highest in the manufacturing areas of the Midwest and South

Friday, July 13, 2012

Nationally, the share of Americans living below the poverty threshold increased from 12.4 percent in 2000 to 13.8 percent in 2006-10. But in nearly one-quarter (762) of U.S. counties, the poverty rate increased by 30 percent or more, while another 878 counties saw no change or experienced declining poverty. Of the counties that had increases of 30 percent or more, 58 percent were in rural areas. Increases in the poverty rate were often highest in regions that suffered the largest increases in unemployment rates during the 2007-09 recession. Many were manufacturing-dependent counties located in the Great Lakes and Southern Highland regions. This chart appeared in the June 2012 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

Mapping frontier and remote areas in the United States

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Population retention, job creation, and acquisition of goods and services often require increased effort in very rural, remote U.S. communities. ERS has developed a set of frontier and remote (FAR) area codes to aid research and policymaking on such communities. The initial version classifies ZIP code areas and includes four FAR level codes, based on different population and travel-time thresholds. The levels are meant to reflect likely access to various levels of public and private services. Level one-shown on the map-identifies areas lacking easy access to services commonly provided in large urban centers, such as advanced medical procedures, major household appliances, regional airport hubs, or professional sports franchises. Other levels identify increasingly remote areas of the country that may lack easy access to even basic services, such as grocery stores, gas stations, and basic health-care. The map is from the Frontier and Remote Area Codes data product on the ERS website, updated June 1, 2012.

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