Finally, some good news! Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported by the Daily Yonder, show that rural counties across America – including Eastern Kentucky and Southwest Virginia – have gained jobs in the last year. Virginia and Kentucky are at the top of the list: their rural counties (which include more than just Appalachia) have seen, respectively, nearly 17,000 and 16,500 jobs created between May 2010 and May 2011. If you look at the map (included below), you can see that even the Appalachian counties of these states are seeing job creation. (And a shout-out to Mississippi, usually at the bottom of lists like these, which ranks #1 in rural job creation over the last year.)
Nearly all of Kentucky's Appalachian counties saw job creation. Wise County in southwest Virginia is one of the best-performing rural counties in the country, coming in at #16 with 1,132 new jobs. And while much of West Virginia saw job losses, Greenbrier County ranked 38th in the country with over 800 new jobs.
To be sure, this does not mean all is well economically for Appalachia, or even the rest of rural America. While it is great to see job creation, rural unemployment rates are still too high (though Virginia, at 7.6%, is doing better than the national average of 8.6)%. West Virginia and southeast Ohio saw more job losses. 10.6% of rural Kentuckians remain unemployed. Moreover, this data does not tell us what kinds of jobs are being created. Are they the kind that provide permanent, living wages and support the long-term health of the community? But during a time when most economic news is depressing, it is nice to see some positive trends for parts of our region.