This issue brief uses data from the Current Population Survey collected from 2003 to 2012 to assess trends in employment in middle-skill jobs and the Great Recession’s impact on middle-skill workers, with particular attention paid to differences between those in rural and urban places. Author Justin Young reports that roughly half (51 percent) of American workers living in rural areas held middle-skill jobs in 2012—positions requiring at least some on-the-job training, an apprenticeship-type experience, or postsecondary education but no more than a two-year degree. This figure is well above the national average of 43 percent and the urban average of 42 percent. Since 2003, the percentage of workers holding middle-skill jobs has not changed in rural places but has declined in urban areas. Other data suggest that there has been a downward trajectory in these types of occupations since the 1970s; analyses conducted for this brief indicate that indicate that, at least in recent years, national declines in the prevalence of middle-skill workers appear to reflect an urban rather than rural trend. Despite this trend, some middle-skill occupations are growing in both urban and rural areas. Much of this growth is driven by the increasingly important role that the service sector (in particular, the health care field) plays in the U.S. economy.

Publication Date



National Policy Brief No. 21


Durham, N.H. : Carsey Institute, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2013. The Carsey Institute. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.





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