Labor Force Participation Decreased Less in Rural Areas During Pandemic

From 2007 to 2019, labor force participation rates decreased 2.6 percentage points for people aged 25 to 64 in the rural United States and 0.7 percentage points for the same age group in urban areas. The labor participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work. USDA’s Economic Research Service released data this week that shows the larger decrease in rural participation reflects a slower recovery in those areas after the Great Recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.

Labor force participation rates for people aged 25 to 64 decreased again from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but decreased less in rural counties than in urban counties.

Rates declined the most from 2019 to 2020 for people aged 16 to 24 and fell the most in that age group in urban counties.

In 2021, labor force participation rates for each age group remained below pre-pandemic levels in rural and urban counties.

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