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Press Release

Monday, February 19

Report examines growing urban-rural economic divide

2018 Rural Jobs Outlook explores causes, solutions for rural job disparity

OLYMPIA — A significant portion of Washington’s economy is falling behind while urban areas thrive, a new report from the Association of Washington Business shows.

Job growth in rural areas is about half compared to urban areas, median home prices are lower, and unemployment is higher, according to AWB’s first-ever Rural Jobs Outlook report. Yet the health of Washington’s rural economy remains important to the state overall, which includes about a quarter of all jobs statewide. The report can be accessed here on AWB’s website at www.bit.ly/RuralJobsOutlook2018.

“Rural Washington is the foundation for many employers and its health is critical to the overall health of our state economy,” AWB President Kris Johnson says. “Agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and many family businesses create jobs and pay taxes that support public schools, law enforcement and other services across the state. Our rural communities face challenges, but we believe they are worth investing in.”

Report highlights include:

  • The urban-rural economic divide has grown more pronounced since the Great Recession.
  • Washington’s rural areas lag behind urban centers in area like unemployment, job growth, median wages and home prices.
  • Job growth in urban areas was 1.5 percent from 2012-2016, and 0.8 percent in rural areas for the same time frame, according to the state Employment Security Department.
  • Median home prices in urban Washington averaged about $106,000 more than rural areas in 2016.

To address this challenge, AWB hosted two Rural Jobs Summits in 2017 to convene employers, state lawmakers, chambers of commerce, ports and others to work on solutions.

The summits produced five top concerns, including:

  • Workforce. Skilled workers are often hard to recruit and retain in rural areas
  • Tax fairness. Manufacturing needs a tax system that applies incentives fairly
  • Regulatory reform. Reforming the regulatory climate is needed to spur economic development in the rural areas
  • Infrastructure. Expanding and maintaining infrastructure in rural areas is critically lacking
  • Broadband. There is a significant gap in reliable and accessible broadband in rural infrastructure across the state

To learn more about AWB’s rural jobs work, please visit www.awb.org/rural-jobs/.

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