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Rural advantages in coronavirus recovery

The coronavirus “dealt an economically devastating hand to nearly the whole country,” but job losses were smaller and shutdowns were shorter in rural America, said rural lender CoBank in a quarterly report. “Economic recovery may now favor rural communities for the first time in many years.”

“Unlike previous recessions, low population density is now vital for economic resilience in the face of COVID-19,” said CoBank vice president Dan Kowalski. Coronavirus rates are roughly half as high in rural areas as in urban areas. Job losses averaged 9% in rural counties, compared with 14% in cities, according to The Daily Yonder.

While rural America may be better positioned, the U.S recovery is fragile, wrote Kowalski. Some 7.5 million people gained jobs in May and June, but two-thirds of people who lost work due to the pandemic were still out of work. “High-frequency indicators … are signaling a plateau, followed by a potential downshift in the economy. Customers are more fearful of venturing out, and retail sales appear to have softened … If we can’t control the virus, the economic recovery will be shallower than previously expected.”

Congress is expected to consider a coronavirus relief bill in the latter half of July. “Depending on the late summer mood, additional aid for agriculture and/or rural infrastructure could be in the final bill,” said Kowalski.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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