3 Reasons COVID-19 is Creating a Rural Employment Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a health crisis unlike anything we’ve ever seen. But the disease’s damage doesn’t stop there. With millions of people forced to stay at home, the economy has cratered. 701,000 people lost their job in March alone—the worst month for American jobs since the Great Recession in March 2009.

At CORI, we knew there was an economic crisis happening in rural America even before this crash. Small town industries have been declining, tech jobs have boomed only in cities, and young people have left their rural hometowns in search of opportunity. And without good access to broadband, rural areas haven’t been able to tap into the digital economy’s growth.

All those existing challenges made us worried about what could happen when a COVID-related recession hit. Led by our in-house economist Mark Rembert, we created an Employment Risk Index, which ranks counties by how vulnerable they are to losing jobs based on three factors relevant to the COVID crisis: employment in high-risk industries, employment in small businesses, and age of workforce. What we found was troubling: Rural America faces a disproportionately high employment risk.

20th century industries are hardest hit

Our analysis found four industries at highest risk from COVID-19, whether through decreased demand or an inability to employ remote work: tourism, manufacturing, transportation, and natural resource production. In metro areas, these industries make up just 43 percent of all jobs. In rural areas, they represent an astonishing 56 percent.

View the geographical data and read the rest of this article at Center on Rural Innovation (CORI).

Reprinted with permission from American Geographical Society ags@americangeo.org

Aidan Calvelli is Research and Communications Analyst at CORI. He has edited books and articles about democracy and the presidency that have been featured by national news outlets and publishers. Aidan grew up in Rochester, NY and Shelburne, VT, and holds an A.B. in Political Theory from Brown University.