ERS Charts of Note

Subscribe to get highlights from our current and past research, Monday through Friday, or see our privacy policy.
See also: Editors' Pick 2018: Best of Charts of Note gallery.

Reset

Service industries account for the largest share of rural and urban employment

Friday, March 25, 2016

Overall employment in rural (nonmetropolitan) areas accounts for between 13 and 14 percent of all U.S. employment. However, the distribution of employment across industries differs between rural and urban areas. Service industries account for the largest share of employment in both rural and urban areas but are more heavily represented in urban areas, where they account for close to three-fifths of all employment. Within the service sector, jobs in finance, real estate, administration, and professional/scientific/technical services were particularly concentrated in urban areas. Rural areas account for 72 percent of the Nation’s land area, and employment in primary extractive industries that depend largely on the distribution of land and natural resources is greater in rural than in urban areas. Nonetheless, these industries—farming and forestry/fishing/mining—accounted for just 10 percent of total rural employment in 2014. Manufacturing employment is also a bigger part of the employment mix in rural areas, largely reflecting past migration of manufacturing activities to lower wage and lower cost locations. Government employment was marginally more common in rural than in urban areas (16 versus 13 percent). This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Rural Employment and Unemployment.

Low-education counties are mostly rural and concentrated in the South and Southwest

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The proportion of adults lacking a high school diploma or equivalent declined in rural America (defined here as nonmetro counties), from 32 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2014. The proportion of rural adults with college degrees also increased from 12 to 19 percent during that time. Despite these overall gains, educational attainment varies widely across rural areas. ERS’s latest county typology classifies low-education counties as those where at least one of every five working-age adults (age 25-64) has not completed high school. In an average of data over 2008-12, ERS identified 467 low-education counties in the United States, 367 of which were rural. Eight out of 10 of all low-education counties are located in the South. Three-fourths of rural low-education counties also qualified as low-employment in the latest ERS county typology. Over 40 percent of rural low-education counties were both low-employment and persistently poor, reflecting the difficulty that adults without high school diplomas have in finding and retaining jobs that pay enough to place them above the poverty line. This map is part of the ERS data product on County Typology Codes, released December 2015.

Among age groups, children faced highest poverty rates in rural America in 2014

Friday, January 22, 2016

Poverty rates for rural children underwent the largest increase during the 2007-09 recession, rising from 21.9 percent in 2007 to 24.2 percent in 2009. (The poverty status of children depends on the income, size, and composition of their families.) Child poverty continued to increase at the start of the economic recovery and was 25.2 percent in 2014. Poverty for the rural working-age population also increased during the recession and climbed modestly in recovery. Conversely, the poverty rate for rural seniors declined during the recession and has changed little during the recovery. Rural children were also more likely to be deeply poor—in families with an income below half of the poverty level—than were other age groups. In 2014, 11.3 percent of rural children lived in deep poverty, compared with 7.8 percent of the rural working-age population. This chart is found in Rural America At A Glance 2015 Edition, November 2015.

Educational attainment rates were lower for rural minorities in 2014

Friday, January 15, 2016

Higher educational attainment is closely tied to economic well-being—through higher earnings, lower unemployment, and lower poverty. While educational attainment in rural (nonmetro) America has improved over time, rural areas still lag urban (metro) areas in educational attainment. Moreover, within rural areas, educational attainment varies across racial and ethnic categories. In general, minority populations within rural areas have lower average levels of educational attainment. About a quarter of adults age 25 and over in the rural Black and Native American/Alaskan Native populations, and 40 percent of rural Hispanics, had not completed high school or the equivalent in 2014. These shares are considerably higher than for rural Whites, with 13 percent lacking a high school diploma. Lower attainment levels for minorities may both reflect and contribute to high rates of poverty; poverty in childhood is highly correlated with lower academic success and graduation rates, while lower educational attainment is strongly associated with lower earnings in adulthood. This chart is found in the ERS publication, Rural America At A Glance, 2015 Edition, November 2015.

Editor's Pick 2015, #1:<br>One in five rural counties had child poverty rates over 33 percent

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Child poverty rates varied considerably across nonmetropolitan (rural) counties according to 2009-13 county averages (data on poverty for all U.S. counties are available from the American Community Survey only for 5-year averages). According to the official poverty measure, one in five rural counties had child poverty rates over 33 percent. Child poverty has increased since the 2000 Census (which measured poverty in 1999) and the number of rural counties with child poverty rates of over 33 percent has more than doubled. Improving young adult education levels tended to lower child poverty rates over the period, but increases in single-parent households and economic recession were associated with rising child poverty. Metropolitan counties had average child poverty rates of 21 percent in 2009-13. This map appears in the July 2015 Amber Waves feature, Understanding the Geography of Growth in Rural Child Poverty.

Editor's Pick 2015, #5:<br>Rural employment yet to recover to prerecession levels

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Employment fell by roughly 5 percent in urban areas and 6 percent in rural areas between the first quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2009—a period that includes the Great Recession. In 2010, the first full year of the economic recovery, urban and rural employment levels grew at comparable rates, and rural areas experienced modest growth the following year. This was followed by 2 years of near-zero employment change before growth resumed in early 2014. An annual growth of more than 1 percent between mid-2014 and mid-2015 has brought the number of employed rural residents (total rural employment) back above 20 million people for the first time since 2008. As of mid-2015, that number remained more than 3 percentage points below its prerecession peak in 2007. This chart is found in the 2015 edition of Rural America At A Glance, released November 30, 2015.

Rural education levels improve, still lag urban areas

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

In 1960, 60 percent of the rural population ages 25 and older had not completed high school. By 2014—more than 50 years later—that proportion had dropped to 15 percent. Over the same period, the proportion of rural adults ages 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 5 percent to 19 percent but remained well below the proportion in urban areas (32 percent) in 2014. The proportion of rural adults with a college degree or more increased by 4 percentage points between 2000 and 2014 and the proportion without a high school degree or equivalent, such as a GED, declined by 9 percentage points. The gap between urban-rural college completion rates has increased, even for young adults, who are more likely to have completed high school than older cohorts. Between 2000 and 2014, the share of young adults age 25-34 (not shown in this chart) with bachelor’s degrees grew in urban areas from 29 to 35 percent. In rural areas, the college-educated proportion of young adults rose from 15 to 19 percent. This chart is found in the ERS publication, Rural America At A Glance, released November 30, 2015.

Rural employment yet to recover to prerecession levels

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Employment fell by roughly 5 percent in urban areas and 6 percent in rural areas between the first quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2009—a period that includes the Great Recession. In 2010, the first full year of the economic recovery, urban and rural employment levels grew at comparable rates, and rural areas experienced modest growth the following year. This was followed by 2 years of near-zero employment change before growth resumed in early 2014. An annual growth of more than 1 percent between mid-2014 and mid-2015 has brought the number of employed rural residents (total rural employment) back above 20 million people for the first time since 2008. As of mid-2015, that number remained more than 3 percentage points below its prerecession peak in 2007. This chart is found in the 2015 edition of Rural America At A Glance, released November 30, 2015.

Nonmetro unemployment rates have declined, but remain highest for adults with the lowest levels of education

Friday, October 30, 2015

The nonmetro unemployment rate fell between 2010 and 2014 as the economy continued to recover from the national recession that began in late 2007. The likelihood of being unemployed was much higher for adults (ages 25 and older) at the lowest levels of educational attainment during the 2007-2014 period. Data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey show that differences in unemployment rates between the least and most highly educated nonmetro adults nearly doubled over the 2007-2010 period. Since 2010, unemployment rates have fallen, especially for those without a high school diploma. In 2010, nearly 15 percent of adults without a high school diploma were unemployed, while in 2014, 9.6 percent of adults in this group were unemployed. Overall, unemployment rates declined across all levels of educational attainment for nonmetro adults, showing a gradual trend towards pre-recession levels. This chart is found on the ERS topic page on Rural Employment and Education, updated September 2015.

Nonmetro job growth accelerates in 2015, but is unevenly distributed

Friday, September 4, 2015

The number of rural (nonmetro) jobs rose by 239,000 (1.2 percent) between the second quarters of 2014 and 2015, more than double the rate of growth over the prior year. Rural job growth still lags behind the rate of growth in metro areas, which saw the number of jobs rise by 1.8 percent over this period. Moreover, while the number of jobs in urban areas now exceeds the peak levels recorded prior to the Great Recession in 2007, rural employment is still well below its pre-recession peak. Rural job growth was unevenly distributed; some 1311 rural counties saw no change or an increase in jobs (ranging up to 69 percent growth), but 665 experienced job declines, with the largest decline being 19 percent. Rural counties in several oil and gas-producing states, such as Texas, Kansas, and North Dakota, which had generally experienced job growth between 2013 and 2014, experienced declines in 2014-15. The vast majority (88 percent) of rural counties in the block of Southern States stretching from Arkansas to Georgia experienced job growth, whereas, in 2013-14, 71 percent of these rural counties had employment losses. This map updates one found in the ERS report, Rural America At a Glance, 2014 Edition.

One in five rural counties had child poverty rates over 33 percent

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Child poverty rates varied considerably across nonmetropolitan (rural) counties according to 2009-13 county averages (data on poverty for all U.S. counties are available from the American Community Survey only for 5-year averages). According to the official poverty measure, one in five rural counties had child poverty rates over 33 percent. Child poverty has increased since the 2000 Census (which measured poverty in 1999) and the number of rural counties with child poverty rates of over 33 percent has more than doubled. Improving young adult education levels tended to lower child poverty rates over the period, but increases in single-parent households and economic recession were associated with rising child poverty. Metropolitan counties had average child poverty rates of 21 percent in 2009-13. This map appears in the July 2015 Amber Waves feature, "Understanding the Geography of Growth in Rural Child Poverty."

Rural and urban unemployment rates follow similar trends

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Both urban (metro) and rural (nonmetro) unemployment rates have dropped since the highs reached at the end of the most recent recession. In 2007, the rural unemployment rate averaged 5.1 percent, compared to 4.5 percent in urban areas. As the recession unfolded, metro and nonmetro unemployment rates rose rapidly and converged, peaking at 10 percent in the first quarter of 2010. Since that time, the two unemployment rates have followed similar downward trends. The seasonally adjusted rural unemployment rate stood at 6.4 percent in the second quarter of 2014, while the urban rate fell to 6.2 percent. Until recently, the bulk of the decline in the rural unemployment rate is due to a reduction in the number of people seeking work, not an increase in the number of people working. This chart is found in the October 2014 Amber Waves feature, "Rural Employment in Recession and Recovery."

The earnings advantage from higher education is more pronounced in urban areas

Friday, December 12, 2014

Despite an upward trend in rural educational attainment levels over time, a larger proportion of working-age adults in urban areas have college degrees. This rural-urban disparity is partly the result of considerably higher earnings levels for college graduates and advanced degree holders in urban areas. Many young adults leave rural areas to attend college, and many remain in urban areas after college due to the higher earnings available to them in those areas. In contrast, differences between rural and urban earnings levels are much smaller for those with less education, who thus have less incentive to move to urban areas. However, despite the lower earnings generally available in rural areas, some individuals and families at all levels of educational attainment migrate from urban to rural areas, as quality-of-life factors, lower housing costs, personal ties, or other specific opportunities motivate them to move or move back to rural America. This chart is found in the 2014 edition of Rural America at a Glance, EB-26, November 2014.

Many rural counties continued to lose jobs in 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

While the U.S. economy is now in its 6th year of recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09, many rural areas have struggled to recover the jobs lost during the downturn. While urban employment now exceeds pre-recession levels, rural employment remains well below its 2007 peak and has continued to fall over the last year in many areas. Notable clusters of employment decline can be found in the Deep South, Appalachia, the Mountain West, and the Pacific Northwest. Employment in rural America as a whole is less than 2 percent above the employment trough reached during the recession, and rose less than 1 percent between mid-2013 and mid-2014. One example of employment growth, however, was seen in the Northern Plains, where new jobs have been generated by rising energy extraction. Rural counties that are adjacent to metro areas have also experienced faster-than-average job growth since 2009, after having suffered larger-than-average job losses during the 2007-09 recession. This map is found in the 2014 edition of Rural America at a Glance, EB-26, November 2014.

Creative class county job growth resilient following recession

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

During the pre-recession economic growth years, counties with a high percentage of their workforce employed in “creative” occupations—engineers, scientists, artists, and others tasked with combining knowledge and ideas in novel ways—tended to experience higher rates of local employment growth than other counties, but having a high share of creative jobs did not offer much local job market protection during the 2007-09 recession. “Creative class” counties—those in the top quartile of all counties ranked by their share of creative jobs—were more likely to experience employment losses in the recession than other counties. However, a higher share of creative class counties gained employment during the economic recovery. While a much higher percentage of metro counties have seen recent employment growth whether or not they are creative class counties, a higher share of nonmetro counties gained employment during both the recession and recovery, the latter group benefitting from employment gains driven mainly by the energy boom. This chart is derived from the October 2014 Amber Waves data feature, "What Happened to the "'Creative Class' Job Growth Engine" During the Recession and Recovery?"

County unemployment rates reflect patterns established during the recession

Thursday, October 9, 2014

During the 2007-09 recession, unemployment rates rose fastest in the West, South, South Atlantic, and parts of the Midwest. States most reliant on manufacturing—including Michigan, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and North Carolina—were hit especially hard. Many of the States with the smallest increases in unemployment were located in the Great Plains and had relatively high employment shares in agriculture, which was largely unaffected by the recession. Similarly, States in the West South Central region (which includes Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas) saw their unemployment rates held in check by growth in oil and gas drilling. Since 2009, unemployment rates have fallen in all States, with large improvements in a few. In general, States that experienced the largest increases in unemployment rates during the recession have seen the largest reductions in unemployment rates during the recovery. Still, most of the hardest-hit States continue to have above-average unemployment rates. As a result, the current geography of county unemployment rates still reflects the patterns established during the recession. Many of the counties with the lowest unemployment rates (below 4.7 percent) are located in or near the Great Plains. The highest unemployment rate counties (above 8.7 percent) are concentrated in the West, South, and South Atlantic, as well as in Appalachia and parts of the Rust Belt. This chart is found in the October 2014 edition of Amber Waves.

Gains in educational attainment of rural workforce continue

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The most recent American Community Survey shows that the percentage of the working-age (adults between the ages of 25 and 64) rural population with schooling beyond a high school diploma increased from 44.5 percent in 2000 to 50.6 percent in 2008-12. As elsewhere, rural people have an economic incentive to acquire additional skills and higher educational attainment; doing so improves both their employment prospects and earnings potential. Even though urban places often offer higher wages than rural places for the college educated, good schools coupled with easy access to outdoor amenities and the potential for a higher quality of life can be an effective draw for rural in-migrants. Increasing school quality and educational attainment is often viewed as part of a broader economic development strategy for rural communities, particularly when paired with job creation strategies such as entrepreneurship and small business development. This chart is based on the ERS data product, County Level Data Sets, updated July 2014.

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 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."

Charts of Note header image for left nav