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USDA: Rural Employment Returns to Pre-COVID Levels

USDA’s Economic Research Service is highlighting new data that shows rural employment levels are back to pre-COVID levels. The COVID-19 pandemic affected employment in rural and urban areas differently. Before the pandemic, employment growth was higher, and unemployment rates were slightly lower in urban areas.

However, the trends reversed during the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, urban employment fell to 88 percent of pre-pandemic employment levels, while rural employment fell to 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Unemployment during the pandemic reached a high of 13.3 percent in urban areas and 11.4 percent in rural areas, compared with pre-pandemic rates of 3.8 and 4.2 percent, respectively. Rural and urban employment grew quickly in the third and fourth quarters of 2020 as many sectors of the economy reopened.

Rural employment recovered to pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter of 2023, more than one year after urban employment did. Rural unemployment rates in 2023 were at their lowest point since before 1990.

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