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Survival rates of manufacturing plants vary by county type and ownership structure

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Between the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions, U.S. manufacturing employment fell by close to 30 percent. In many communities, the closing of a manufacturing plant can reduce local employment, earnings, and government tax revenue. To improve understanding of the factors affecting the survival of manufacturing plants, ERS studied plant survival over a 15-year period (1996 to 2011). Over this period, the average survival rate—the share of plants that were still employers—in rural (nonmetro) counties was 57 percent. By comparison, plants in urban (metro) counties had an average survival rate of 53 percent during this period. Survival rates also varied by ownership structure: Overall, independent plants (single-unit plants with only one physical location) had a 59-percent survival rate, while multi-unit plants had a 50-percent survival rate. Independent plants located in rural counties had the highest average survival rate (62 percent). Although States and regions have long tended to put more effort into recruiting and retaining multi-unit plants, the research shows that independent plants are more likely to survive—in both rural and urban counties. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural Manufacturing Resilience: Factors Associated With Plant Survival, 1996-2011, released May 2017.

Industry specialization varies across rural counties

Monday, May 23, 2016

The ERS county economic typology codes are a classification system that provide a tool to analyze and characterize the economic dependence of U.S. counties. This typology reveals that rural (nonmetropolitan) counties have diverse industrial specializations. Where farming was once almost synonymous with rural, the predominance of farming as an industry in rural areas of the United States is now largely confined to the Plains States, and only 6 percent of the rural population in 2015 lived in the 391 rural farming-dependent counties. In contrast, although also declining in number, manufacturing predominated in the economies of a similar number of rural counties (351)—concentrated mainly east of the Mississippi but also including a scattering of counties further west—and these account for about 22 percent of the rural population. The 183 rural mining dependent counties accounted for 7 percent of rural population in 2015, and were the only economic type among rural counties to see strong population growth (1.6 percent) in 2010-15. A version of this map is found in the Amber Waves article, “ERS County Economic Types Show a Changing Rural Landscape,” and the underlying codes may be found in the ERS data product, County Typology Codes.

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.

Farming is important to the economies of many counties in the Plains States

Monday, January 11, 2016

ERS determined that farming was an important part of the local economy in 391 nonmetro counties and 53 metro counties, based on data on farming employment and earnings from the period 2010-12. These farming-dependent counties had at least 25 percent of average annual employee and self-proprietor personal earnings attributable to farming during 2010-12, or 16 percent or more of county jobs in farming in the same period, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The proportion of earnings derived from farming ranged up to 83 percent of total employee and self-proprietor personal earnings and farming employment ranged up to 49 percent of total jobs among farming-dependent counties. Farming-dependent counties were primarily located in sparsely populated areas remote from major urban centers and are geographically concentrated in the Midwest and Great Plains. ERS analysis reveals the total number of farming-dependent counties fell from 511 in 2001 to 444 in 2010-12, continuing its long-term decline. A version of this map is found in the Amber Waves article, “ERS County Economic Types Show a Changing Rural Landscape,” and the underlying codes may be found in the ERS data product, County Typology Codes, updated December 7, 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.

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.

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."

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?"

The 2014 Farm Act aims to improve broadband internet availability in rural areas

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Rural Development Title of the Agricultural Act of 2014 introduces or replaces a number of programs in rural business development, energy, and broadband Internet. Specific to the rural development program area is the inclusion of the digital economy, or broadband technology use, in new and existing programs. These provisions are aimed at improving the economic impact of public investments in rural broadband Internet technologies. The Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program provides $10 million per fiscal year for ultra-high-speed Internet service in rural areas. While its geographic scope will be small, the pilot program will elicit new data on the need for, and the economic effect of, ultra-high-speed Internet technologies in rural settings. USDA’s Rural Broadband Loan Program continues as an ongoing source of funding for rural broadband networks, with improved reporting and data collection requirements. This chart is found on the page Rural Development in ERS’ Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications, updated April 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 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.