During the pandemic people started to move from urban areas into less-dense regions–and new data shows jobs are following them. Lightcasts’s new report, Rural’s Rise: Shifting Trends in Rural and Urban Job Postings, identifies job posting growth in rural counties.
In the wake of Covid-19, many news stories profiled individuals and families moving to less dense areas—the suburbs, exurbs, or what is traditionally thought of as rural. Population data showed that this trend had already begun. But to examine these trends from a different perspective, Rural’s Rise leverages our database of more than 1 billion current and historical job postings to see what jobs and skill clusters are rising in these areas.
Rural’s Rise found that:
Of the top 10 counties with the highest growth in posting share from 2019 to 2021, nine of them are rural.
Rural job growth isn’t limited to specific sectors. Job postings for a wide range of occupations have grown more in rural areas than urban, including fields such as healthcare, technology, storage and transportation, and science.
Rural areas have seen growth in high-tech skills, including mobile development, cloud computing, brand management, online marketing, and web analytics.
Job postings from urban employers are more likely to allow for remote work: since 2019 remote job postings in urban areas have grown 102% compared to only 14% in rural communities. This suggests that the jobs most likely to go remote are in urban areas— meaning ”work anywhere” is opening the door to additional opportunities for those outside urban markets.
The job growth in rural areas presents opportunities for wage growth. Salaries of jobs growing in rural areas are on average 20% higher than all jobs in rural areas.
What does this mean for economic development and workforce groups?
In rural, exurban, and suburban communities, these shifts could be an opportunity to build local prosperity. For leaders in urban communities, the challenge is how to retain talent, grow economies, and employ workers when some of their historic advantages may be fading.
But there are three key points all community leaders should keep in mind to adapt to this shift:
Know your region’s (data) story. Strategies developed on anecdotes alone or based on broad, national trends likely won’t bear much fruit. Understanding your local data—skill clusters, demographics, education, and other factors that may offer competitive advantages—pinpoint where the best return on investment is for limited resources.
Don’t forget about your backyard. While some major metros have seen population loss, this isn’t an “urban exodus.” Consequently, a community’s job growth will likely still primarily come from building local businesses. Entrepreneurship ecosystems and supporting existing business growth that allows current residents to work for local employers is still a winning strategy.
Maintain perspective. Not all jobs can be done remotely and even if a job can, not all employers will want it to. And Rural’s Rise finds that many of the jobs emerging in rural areas are in-person: postal workers, personal care aides, and real estate agents. Thus, the opportunity is still finite and should be kept in perspective.
One of the most common questions about trends coming out of the pandemic has been: is this trend permanent? At least over the last three years, job postings have seen a shift to more rural areas. Download Rural’s Rise to decide for yourself if this is the beginning of the “decade of rural” or just a brief Covid detour.