The male employment crisis—defined as relatively low rates of labor force participation among men of prime working age (25 to 54)—is occurring at both extremes of the rural-urban continuum, finds an analysis by the Brookings Institution. The labor force participation rate of men aged 25 to 54 is below average in the nation's largest cities at the one extreme and in small metros, towns, and rural areas at the other extreme.
The good news is the crisis seems to be diminishing in the nation's largest cities, where the labor force participation rate of prime age men grew 2 percentage points between 2000 and 2010–14. The bad news is the crisis is worsening in small towns and rural areas. The labor force participation rate of prime age men fell 4.8 percentage points in small towns and 5.4 percentage points in rural areas between 2000 and 2010–14. "This suggests that a community's level of urbanization was closely related to employment outcomes for prime-aged male workers," says Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution and the study's author.
"The past 10–15 years have strengthened the economic hand of many cities," he explains, "raising demand for workers in such places, even for those with lower levels of formal skills, drawing them into jobs at increased rates." But, he says, "those same dynamics have simultaneously disadvantaged many small towns and rural areas." Can small places succeed? The answer may be no: "Efforts to bring jobs back to small-town America seem likely to face an uphill battle against market forces that have put jobs further out of reach for many of their residents."
Source: Brookings Institution, America's Male Employment Crisis is both Urban and Rural