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Rural unemployment slightly better in Interior West and Plains than elsewhere

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dailyyonder | Aug 10, 2011 05:00 AM

By Bill Bishop, the Daily Yonder


Rural unemployment 

(click to view larger)

Unemployment in rural counties turned up sharply in June, cracking nine percent for the first time since March. The rural unemployment rates rose from 8.7% in May to 9.2% in June.

Unemployment in rural America remains lower than in urban counties or in the nation as a whole. Urban counties had an unemployment rate of 9.4% in June; the national rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics count of joblessness in counties, was 9.3%.

The rural unemployment rate has hovered round 9% for the past 30 months — rising above 11 percent at one point and falling below 9% for a few brief months this year and last. But every drop in the rate has been followed by a rise.

On the next page you can see a chart showing the rural, urban and exurban unemployment rates since before the beginning of the recession in 2007.

There are large areas of rural America that have unemployment rates well below the national average. The map above shows those counties in green. The light green counties have very low unemployment — below 6%.

The map reveals a pattern that should be familiar to readers of the Daily Yonder. The lowest rural unemployment rates are in counties between the Mississippi River and the western slope of the Rockies. 

The lowest of the low rates are in the Great Plains. Of the 50 rural counties with the lowest unemployment rates in the country, 18 are in Nebraska (out of 93 counties) and 16 are in North Dakota (out of 53 counties). One out of three North Dakota counties has an unemployment rate below six percent. Many of these counties have small populations.

None of the 50 counties with the lowest unemployment were east of the Mississippi River. Here are the 50 rural counties with the lowest unemployment rates in June 2011.

 Lowest unemployment

The 50 rural counties with the highest unemployment rates in June are below. A large number are in Alabama (8 counties), Mississippi (8 counties) and South Carolina (6 counties). Two counties in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas show up (Starr and Zavala) as well as several large counties in inland California.

Highest unemployment

This article was first published on the Daily Yonder, a news site about rural affairs.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

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