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Low-Skill Employment and the Changing Economy of Rural America

by Robert Gibbs, Lorin Kusmin, and John Cromartie

Economic Research Report No. (ERR-10) 38 pp, October 2005

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This study reports trends in rural low-skill employment in the 1990s and their impact on the rural workforce. The share of rural jobs classified as low-skill fell by 2.2 percentage points between 1990 and 2000, twice the decline of the urban low-skill employment share, but much less than the decline of the 1980s. Employment shifts from low-skill to skilled occupations within industries, rather than changes in industry mix, explain virtually all of the decline in the rural low-skill employment share. The share decline was particularly large for rural Black women, many of whom moved out of low-skill blue-collar work into service occupations, while the share of rural Hispanics who held low-skill jobs increased.

Keywords: rural labor markets, low-skill employment, job skills, human capital, industry, occupation, economic development

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For more information contact: Robert Gibbs, Lorin Kusmin, and John Cromartie

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