Publication Date



This paper examines whether recent job growth trends have become more favorable toward counties with greater baseline economic distress. Job growth trends are “competitive job growth,” which is defined as growth that exceeds what would be expected based on how a county’s industries are growing nationally. Baseline county distress is measured by the county’s “prime-age employment rate,” the employment to population ratio for 25–54-year-olds. The core findings are fourfold. First, for the most distressed counties, job growth trends have become more favorable since 2019, compared to the 2001–2007 and 2007–2019 periods. The timing of this recent improvement is consistent with a possible influence of recent federal policies. Second, for the least distressed counties, job growth trends have become less favorable in post-2019 growth and 2007–2019 growth compared to the 2001–2007 period. The timing suggests these trends are probably due not to recent federal policies but rather to other economic forces such as rising costs in some less distressed counties. Third, similar trends are also evident for industry groups such as manufacturing and high-tech, again industries which recently have been targeted by federal policies. Fourth, these recent trends toward greater job growth in more distressed counties are modest in size, in the sense that they are insufficient to significantly lower employment rate gaps between more distressed counties and the national average.

Issue Date

May 2024

Subject Areas

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT; Industry studies; Local labor markets; Regional policy and planning




Bartik, Timothy J., Kathleen Bolter, and Kyle Huisman. 2024. "Place Distress and Job Growth: Are Recent Job Growth Trends Significantly More Favorable for Distressed Counties?" Report prepared for the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.