Increases in productivity and international competition are changing the nature of work in rural America. Job losses are mounting in communities where low-skill employment has dominated the economy. From 1997 through 2003, over 1.5 million rural workers lost their jobs due to fundamental changes in industries that have historically been the mainstay of the rural economy.
The rate of this job loss is increasing as firms seek to lower their costs through automation and the use of cheaper labor outside the U.S. In rural America, workers in manufacturing were hardest hit – from 2001 to 2003, one in ten displaced workers were employed in manufacturing.
Looking ahead, the data show that workers with only a high school education, regardless of the industry in which they work, are especially vulnerable. Job loss has devastating impacts on families and children. The lack of security that accompanies displacement creates severe stress on the previously employed individual.
Loss of a long held job and limited prospects for immediate reemployment create economic insecurity for the family and can lead to a loss of self esteem, declining health, increased marital discord, a reduction in the ability to parent, an increase in abuse of alcohol and other substances, and an increased likelihood of divorce.
In families where an unexpected loss of a long held job occurs and reemployment is slow, children experience a decline in school performance, increased anxiety and emotional maladjustment.
This policy brief reviews data on job displacement nationally and in rural communities, with a focus on regions of the country where job losses due to displacement are significant and the rate of displacement has been increasing. The findings shed light on the distinct experience of rural America and have clear implications for public policy that impacts workers, families and communities.
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Center for Rural Affairs
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