Americans living in rural towns are being left behind by the current jobs boom, while their counterparts in urban areas are seeing robust employment gains.
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Rural Americans want a job, while urbanites want a raise: Report

It’s a tale of two cities.

Americans living in rural towns are being left behind by the current jobs boom, while their counterparts in urban areas are seeing employment gains so robust that they’re thinking of ways to negotiate a raise, according to a new analysis.

The number of people filing new jobless claims dropped to 222,000 last week — the lowest figure since 1973, according to Labor Department stats cited by MarketWatch. And the number of people collecting ongoing unemployment benefits dropped by 16,000 to 1.89 million — a 44-year low, according to MarketWatch.

Yet, according to an analysis by Jessica Rabe of DataTrek Research using Google Trends to track users’ searches across the nation, people in rural regions like Mississippi, North Dakota, and Iowa are predominantly searching for “job openings” while those in urban areas like California and New York are searching “ask for a raise,” MarketWatch reports.

“Our takeaway: workers in large urban areas (who are statistically more likely to have a college degree) are asking for raises, while people in more rural areas are still searching for jobs,” Rabe wrote in DataTrek Research’s daily morning report email. “Urban areas see tight labor conditions and wage inflation; rural areas lag on both counts.”

Rabe added that the divide represents a “two-speed job market” — since the number of job openings has outpaced the number of hires by nearly a half million jobs for nearly two straight years, according to the most recently available data from August 2017.

Yet rural residents continue to live in higher-than-average poverty rates.

Approximately 17.2% of rural residents lived below the poverty line in 2012 — higher than the 14.9% nationwide poverty rate, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Housing Assistance Council.

In addition, rural unemployment rates have long been an issue. Unemployment rates in rural areas doubled between 2000 and 2010 — according to an HAC 2012 report, “Taking Stock: Rural People, Poverty and Housing in the 21st Century.”

“More Americans are in poverty in 2012 than at any time since the Census Bureau began measuring its occurrence in the early 1960s,” HAC wrote, estimating that 10 million rural residents lived below the poverty line.

Rural versus urban poverty

(Credit: Housing Assistance Council)

“Household incomes in rural areas and small towns continue to lag behind those in suburban and urban areas,” HAC added, blaming “the high proportion of low-skill and low-paying jobs in rural areas, combined with lower educational attainment levels.”