A new report from the Association of Washington Business shows that, while cities in the state are thriving, a “significant portion of Washington’s economy” in its rural areas is falling behind.
Job growth in rural areas is about half compared to urban areas and unemployment is higher, according to AWB’s first-ever Rural Jobs Outlook report. Urban South Sound counties such as King, Pierce and Thurston, for example, are enjoying low unemployment rates of 3.9, 6.3 and 5.8 percent, respectively; jobless rates in Mason, Lewis and Grays Harbor, on the other hand, have ballooned to 7.8, 8.1 and 8.7 percent.
Median home prices likewise tell the story. The median home price in Grays Harbor County, for example — $151,600 — is less than half the price of King County’s ($222,800).
“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 said. “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.”
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.
“It is imperative that lawmakers, economic developers and business leaders harness [their] resources and work together to support and encourage growth in the state’s rural industries,” Johnson said. “AWB pledges to work with its partners, elected officials, employers and others to build stronger communities throughout the state.”