|U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis map; click on the image to enlarge it.|
The BEA classified counties as large (population over 500,000), medium (population between 100,000 and 500,000), and small (fewer than 100,000). Only 13 of the 138 large counties (about 9 percent) saw GDP decreases from 2014 to 2015. Of the 461 medium counties, 120 (or 26 percent) saw GDP decreases from 2014 to 2015. But of the 2,514 small counties, 1,024, or 40 percent, saw an economic output decline in that time frame, Lucia reports.
A 2017 report from the National Association of Counties provides more recent and more granular data. "The report says that in 2016, almost eight in 10 county economies had returned to their pre-recession GDP levels and that while economic output growth was slower than it was in 2015 in almost two-thirds of counties, virtually none had GDP declines," Lucia reports. "It added that the counties where GDP had not recovered to pre-recession levels had fewer than 50,000 residents and were mainly located in Southern states, including Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia."
Both studies affirm that rural America continues to lag economically behind urban areas. The BEA said it plans to release more timely data next December.