Rural Ohio gaining jobs

(Photo: Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Since 2010, job growth in Ohio’s rural areas has been strong, nearly comparable to the growth in the state’s major cities, according to an economist at The Ohio State University.

Between 2010 and 2017, only six states had better rural job growth than Ohio, said Mark Partridge, an economics professor at Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

“As long as this economic expansion continues, rural Ohio is going to fare pretty well compared to the rest of the U.S.,” Partridge said.

Between 2010 and 2018, Ohio’s nonmetropolitan areas with populations less than 50,000 and not within commuting distance of major cities had a 7.6% increase in the number of jobs—nearly 10 times the national average. During the same period, the growth of jobs in Ohio’s major cities was only slightly higher—a 9.2% increase.

The uptick in jobs has been significant in Columbus and to a lesser degree in Cincinnati, but in Ohio’s other major cities, the number of jobs has decreased, stayed about the same, or increased only modestly, Partridge said.

And in Ohio’s rural counties without connections to cities with more than 10,000 people, the corresponding job growth rate was 8.4%, Partridge said.

The fact that Ohio’s rural and urban job growth rates are nearly comparable is pretty significant, Partridge said.

“That’s not typical and is a really good sign,” he said.

Not all of rural Ohio is faring well in terms of attracting new employers, Partridge pointed out. Many rural areas in Ohio with economies closely tied to agriculture are still suffering from downturns in the prices and demand for soybeans, corn, and other commodities.

Partridge, who is also chair of the C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy at CFAES, will be the keynote speaker at the May 8 Spring 2019 Outlook and Policy Conference “Challenges and Opportunities for Economic Development in Ohio.” The event is hosted by the CFAES Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE). Partridge’s talk, “Does an Urbanizing World Still Need Rural America?” will be at 12:15 p.m. during the conference in the Fawcett Center for Tomorrow on Ohio State’s Columbus campus.

Other speakers include:

  • Bill LaFayette, owner, Regionomics—a Columbus company that offers data on economic development in Ohio
  • Edward “Ned” Hill, professor of economic development, Ohio State’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs
  • Zoë Plakias, assistant professor, AEDE
  • Nan Whaley, mayor, Dayton, Ohio
  • Tom Johnson, mayor, Somerset, Ohio, and executive-in-residence, Ohio University

Some rural areas in Ohio that have experienced solid job growth include Wooster, Van Wert, and Athens.

“They’re not booming, but they’re definitely hanging in there,” Partridge said.

In Holmes County in northeast Ohio, just south of Wooster, the job growth rate is several times the national average for a rural area, Partridge said. Much of the growth is in small businesses started by individuals who have lived in the area a while, he said.

And small Ohio towns such as Wapakoneta, Celina, and Urbana have fared better in attracting new jobs than the booming Columbus metropolitan area, Partridge said.

“Such success in small rural towns is rather remarkable when compared to the rest of the country,” Partridge said.

To register for the upcoming Spring 2019 Outlook and Policy Conference, which is free and open to the public, visit


CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Mark Partridge