Talent's Shift to Rural

Published on Aug 29, 2022

Updated on Dec 12, 2022

Written by Elaine Pierson

The pandemic caused many people to rethink how they work and more importantly, where they work. People are spreading out from cities to less dense areas across the US, and our postings data shows jobs are following them. Lightcast’s report, Rural’s Rise: Shifting Trends in Rural and Urban Job Postings, identifies job posting growth in rural counties and offers helpful insight to these changes. 

Key findings from Rural’s Rise:

  • 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.

What does this mean for your talent strategy?  

Look to rural areas to fill roles

As you seek to optimize and expand operations, look to the regions where talent pools are growing. Job postings represent the forward vision of companies, and with rural counties leading growth in posting share, many employers are signaling their belief that metro cores don’t necessarily hold all the talent they need. Take notice of these trends and consider looking to these areas to fill roles yourself.

Account for the skills rising rurally 

Identify the skills you need and reevaluate where you search for them. As people move to rural areas, their skills go with them. Areas previously overlooked for specific occupations are now becoming ripe with opportunity for employers. Through the use of Lightcast’s comprehensive labor market data, you can inform recruitment decisions and easily target the right markets. Lightcast analyzes billions of data points across any geography, saving you time, money, and effort. 

Focus on non-wage incentives

The vast amount of options available for remote work have made the already tight labor market even tighter. With workers having broad employment opportunities, many companies are now competing nationally, even globally, for talent. While employers should seek to pursue options allowing for remote or hybrid work, they should also focus strategies on employee retention and engagement. Non-wage incentives are becoming more significant with well-being and behavioral health benefits being top-of-mind for many job seekers. 

In-person roles also contributing to the rise in rural postings

Remember, not all jobs can be done remotely and even if a job can, not all employees want to work this way. This is more evident in small and mid-sized cities post-pandemic, as these workers have returned to the office in much higher numbers than those in large metros. The influx of people to less dense areas has also driven demand for in-person workers such as inventory associates, personal care aides, and real estate agents. So while urban employers are contributing to the growth in remote posting share in rural areas, the increase of postings in these communities is also based on local employers trying to keep up with demand. 

Meet people where they are

As Americans have reevaluated where they want to live, employers must do the same with their talent strategy. With rural living on the rise, talent is shifting and companies should seek to meet people where they are. Consider looking outside urban markets previously thought to have all the talent—high-tech skills are growing in rural areas along with a wide range of occupations. And while many jobs can be performed remotely, some can’t. So if you’re looking to expand operations or set up a new office space, consider going rural.  

With the right data and insight, you will be better equipped to find the right talent, understand the regions where opportunities lie, and create a well-rounded workforce. 

To download the full report, click here.

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