And numbers released recently by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) may validate that feeling.
According to the Center for Rural Strategies, 85 percent of new jobs created since the Great Recession have been in cities with populations of more than 1 million people. The BLS data show that two-thirds of rural counties in the United States have fewer jobs today than they did in 2007. Huron County is among them.
“Ten years after the beginning of the great economic depression in December 2007, rural America still has not recovered,” according to a story from the Center for Rural Strategies. “Rural counties count 770,000 fewer jobs in October 2017 than they had in 2007.”
More than 800 of the fewer jobs are in Huron County.
The study lists Huron County as having 27,327 jobs in 2007, compared to just 26,463 today, a difference of 847, or 3.2 percent. As distressing as that may be, however, Huron County is fairing better in that regard than many of it’s neighbors.
Sandusky County has 11 percent fewer jobs today than it did a decade ago; Erie County has 12 percent fewer and Richland County has 13.6 percent fewer. The only counties looked at that are doing better than Huron County in terms of lost jobs over that time period are Ashland County, with 3 percent fewer jobs, and Ottawa County, 0.5 percent fewer.
During this same period, while the number of jobs have declined, so have the number of unemployed. According to the BLS, 1,342 people in Huron County were unemployed in October, 2017, that’s compared to 2,412 who were reported as unemployed 10 years ago on the verge of the Great Recession. The story is similar in neighboring counties.
Senca County has 1,135 unemployed today compared to 1,785 in 2007; Erie County has 2,228 unemployed today compared to 2,576 in 2007; Ashland Conty has 1,106 unemployed compared to 1,654 before; Richland has 2,628 unemployed compared to 4,056 earlier and Ottawa County has 1,109 unemployed compared to 1,569 10 years ago.
Many factors could influence unemployment numbers, including the number of people who have dropped out of the workforce for whatever reason or just stopped looking for work.
While there are fewer jobs available, in Huron County at least, those that are available are paying more than they did in 2007. The same BLS data show that average wages have grown from $33,168 locally in 2007 to $38,988 today, an increase of 17.5 percent.
And while overall jobs have declined in rural areas over the past 10 years, that trend seems to be changing. From October 2016 to October 2017, the number of jobs in rural counties has grown by 200,000.
Major metropolitan areas are where almost all of the economic growth the nation has experienced since the Great Recession has occurred. For the entire nation, there are 9 million more jobs in the U.S. now than in 2007. However, 87.5 percent of that gain has been in urban areas with populations of a million or more.
Unemployment rates are much lower locally now than in 2007, but it’s because fewer people are living in rural areas now than 10 years ago and more of those who live there have dropped out of the work force.
In Huron County, the unemployment rate has dropped from 8.8 to 5.1 percent over the past decade; Seneca, from 6.0 to 3.8; Erie, from 6.4 to 6.2; Ashland from 6.3 to 4.3; Richland, from 6.9 to 5.2 and Ottawa, from 7.7 to 5.5.
While the total number of unemployed people in the six area counties looked at by the Reflector has dropped by 4,504 — from 14,052 to 9,548 — the number of available jobs has dropped by 17,279 — from 201,593 to 184,314.
All the news in the report is not bad for rural areas. From October 2016 to October 2017, the number of jobs in rural areas has increased by close to 200,000. That growth, however, is only half the rate of what it was in cities of a million or more.