Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Geography of Employment

A new interactive map reveals the huge role that geography plays in the American economy. The map uses Bureau of Labor Statistics data to show which counties gained and lost jobs during 2019. One of the most surprising revelations from the map is how many neighboring counties on either side of state borders had vastly different fortunes last year in terms of employment.

The Daily Yonder's map Two-Thirds of Rural Counties Gain Jobs colors counties green or red depending on whether they gained or lost jobs from November 2018 to November 2019. The Daily Yonder's take away from the map is that the further a county is from an urban center then the more likely it is to have lost jobs. They note that the "largest metropolitan areas gained the most jobs. And rural counties located farthest from large urban centers had the slowest rate of job growth". The map and the data support this observation. In fact the 319 counties with the largest growth in jobs were all in metro areas.

The Daily Yonder's map also seems to reveal that state policies can also have a huge influence on employment rates. For example look at the border between Mississippi and Alabama. On one side, in Mississippi, nearly every single county lost jobs. Hop over the border into Alabama and nearly every single county gained jobs. This stark contrast in fortunes between neighboring states can be seen elsewhere. In Wisconsin nearly every county experienced a loss in jobs. However neighboring counties in Minnesota and Iowa all managed to gain jobs over the same period of time.

I don't know enough about American politics to know why state borders could have such an effect on employment rates. The rural and urban makeup of states may be playing some role in the contrast in employment fortunes between some neighboring states. However I wonder if individual state policies, such as state employment regulations, state taxes and state investment and state public spending also play a role in influencing county employment rates.

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