Rust Belt,Eastern Coal States Sees Largest Shift in Employment By County Since 2000

Since 2000, the U.S. has seen a major swing away from manufacturing and towards service industries and lower job growth. Goods-producing jobs declined, while service industry jobs have steadily increased. Much of that change is well known to be a result of the off-shoring of manufacturing jobs and the growth of white-collar industries related to finance and computers.

Despite these changes, total employment has increased over the last twenty years even after the financial crisis, ignoring the effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Only two states, Michigan and Puerto Rico, saw a decline in total employment according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). Puerto Rico lost 121,409 jobs and Michigan lost 388,687 jobs.

But at the county level, there has been a more dramatic fluctuation in employment where certain areas saw large job loss, mainly surrounding major cities in the midwest, and others saw large job gains.

Wayne County, Michigan—the county seat of Detroit—had the largest loss in employment, with almost 120,000 jobs lost since 2000. Ohio counties had the top 2nd 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 8th spots despite not losing jobs statewide. Between Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin, those four mid-Western states represented 19 out of the top 30 job losing counties.

Eastern coal states—particularly Kentucky and West Virginia—had the largest percentage of counties that lost jobs. West Virginia tops the list with 9 percent of the state's counties losing jobs. Kentucky was 7.5 percent.

Not all job declines were in those areas. Other states saw a large number of county declines, like Vermont, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi.

Missouri and New Jersey both saw counties with large metropolitan areas, particularly St. Louis County, with a large number of losses.