The 2009 edition of “Rural America at a Glance,” an annual bulletin series from the USDA’s Economic Research service, describes economic trends in rural communities. Initially, the report notes, effects of the current recession were mitigated in non-metro areas by high commodity prices throughout much of 2008, but as the recession deepened, prices fell. At the same time, rural communities experienced rising unemployment as manufacturing and other major employment sectors contracted, and they were affected by the mortgage foreclosure crisis just like metro areas.
The report notes, however, that even before the current recession, non-metro poverty rates had risen in the growth years after the 2001 recession, against the usual trend during a time of economic expansion. As a result, the non-metro poverty rate has exceeded the national poverty rate since 2001. Rural population continued to grow in 2007 and 2008, but at less than half the rate of the metro population. Non-metro population growth is largely due to a rise in births, the report notes, as migration from cities to rural areas has declined. The full report is available from USDA/ERS.