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05.27.21

What’s driving rural employment growth? A study of trends in four states

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A new analysis of rural employment trends in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia finds generally slow employment growth but some relative success stories in nonmetropolitan counties that have specialized in manufacturing.

In “Rural Employment in Four States: A Story of Specialization and Change (2010 through 2019),” Matt Klesta, senior community development analyst, notes several patterns:

  • The rate of growth in Fourth District nonmetropolitan counties (4.2 percent) was comparable to that of nonmetropolitan counties across the United States (5.4 percent). However, this rate was significantly less than the 9 percent growth in Fourth District metropolitan counties and well below the national metropolitan average of 17 percent.
  • Some nonmetropolitan counties in Ohio and parts of Kentucky that have specialized in manufacturing experienced growth in total employment of 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively, from 2010 through 2019.
  • Specialization in declining industries can exacerbate employment declines in a region: Eastern Kentucky has seen a sustained and significant loss of natural resources and mining jobs—a 60 percent decline from 2010 through 2019.

Read the full report: Rural Employment in Four States: A Story of Specialization and Change (2010 through 2019)

Read a quick summary: Research [in] Brief: Rural employment and sector specialization

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