High unemployment rates can cause more damage to an economy than you may realize. When the unemployment rates rise, many people begin relocating to areas with more readily-available jobs. Unattached singles are especially prone to moving, but if jobs don't become more plentiful in major cities, even married couples with children think about hitting the road. (More than just crunching numbers, this career blends detective work with trouble shooting. Read on to find out why Accounting Is Not Just For Nerds Anymore.)

State by State
Rural areas and small towns often have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota and New Hampshire report the lowest rural employment rates, although rural areas have also been hit by the recession.
Among states, South Dakota had the lowest jobless rate at 3% this year. Wyoming came in second (3.1%), followed by North Dakota (3.2%), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

BusinessWeek magazine lauded Bismarck, ND, in August for its 3.6% unemployment rate, the lowest in the country. The city, the magazine noted, is blessed with sizable government employment, four colleges and a booming wind energy business. However, low unemployment in rural towns can hide the fact that many rural natives are moving out due to lack of opportunities.

Before You Start Packing
If you're considering moving to a small town, think about its prospects for future employment growth as well as its quality of life. With that in mind, the following list ranks some of the best small town and rural places to live, based on prospects for future job growth and quality life issues, including education, crime rate, recreation and other factors.

  1. Louisville, Colorado - The town of 18,800 at the RockyMountain foothills impresses visitors with its historic downtown, summer street fairs and proximity to ski resorts and mountain trails. High tech, energy and health care industries keep unemployment down.

  2. Benton City, Washington - The area in Eastern Washington (pop 2,800) has some of the highest projected job growth in the country, and is one of the most educated rural areas in the nation.

  3. Chanhassen, Minnesota - An abundance of lakes and parks, a large arboretum and winter sports offer plenty to do, and unemployment is well under the national average.

  4. Papillion, Nebraska - Unemployment is just 4.5%, and crime is also low. The town is in the middle of a downtown revitalization, which includes building a performance arts center and AAA baseball stadium.

  5. Middleton, Wisconsin - This city boasts a stable economy, excellent schools and a large network of parks, bike paths and trails. A mixed use community inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and development for upscale stores and restaurants are underway.

  6. Greenacres, Washington - With a population of 7,112, it's a great place for families with children, has good public schools, large population of college-educated adults, and a high homeownership rate.

  7. Horse Creek, Wyoming - The unincorporated area in South Eastern Wyoming has a very low crime rate and is an easy drive to Cheyenne and Laramie, home of the University of Wyoming.

  8. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (Mica and RockfordBay) - The rural area around Coeur d'Alene boasts great fishing, wonderful scenery and a job market with strong potential.

Everybody has an opinion on the best rural places to live and the locations with the best job prospects, but lists like these can be a great starting point when planning your new home. Keep in mind that unemployment opportunities change as business close, and rural areas are not immune to the recession. (The misery index measures a combination of unemployment and inflation, but what does it mean for your finances? Find out in The Misery Index: Measuring Your Misfortune.)

Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    Avoiding the 5 Most Common Rent-to-Own Mistakes

    Pitfalls that a prospective tenant-buyer could encounter on the road to purchase – and how not to stumble into them.
  2. Home & Auto

    Renting vs. Owning: Which is Better for You?

    Despite the conventional wisdom, renting might make more financial sense than you think.
  3. Economics

    Explaining the Participation Rate

    The participation rate is the percentage of civilians who are either employed or unemployed and looking for a job.
  4. Investing Basics

    Explaining Options Contracts

    Options contracts grant the owner the right to buy or sell shares of a security in the future at a given price.
  5. Home & Auto

    When Are Rent-to-Own Homes a Good Idea?

    Lease now and pay later can work – for a select few.
  6. Economics

    What Qualifies as Full Employment?

    Full employment is an economic term describing a situation where all available labor resources are being utilized to their highest extent.
  7. Stock Analysis

    The Best Stocks to Buy for Less than $10 before Year End

    Learn about the best stocks to buy under $10. These stocks are speculative but have considerable upside given their valuation and market conditions.
  8. Home & Auto

    When Getting a Rent-to-Own Car Makes Sense

    If your credit is bad, rent-to-own may be a better way to purchase a car than taking out a subprime loan – or it may not be. Get out your calculator.
  9. Economics

    Understanding Frictional Unemployment

    Frictional unemployment is one aspect of natural unemployment, which is unemployment caused by things other than an underperforming economy.
  10. Options & Futures

    An Introduction To Value at Risk (VAR)

    Volatility is not the only way to measure risk. Learn about the "new science of risk management".
  1. Derivative

    A security with a price that is dependent upon or derived from ...
  2. Security

    A financial instrument that represents an ownership position ...
  3. Series 6

    A securities license entitling the holder to register as a limited ...
  4. Internal Rate Of Return - IRR

    A metric used in capital budgeting measuring the profitability ...
  5. Board Of Directors - B Of D

    A group of individuals that are elected as, or elected to act ...
  6. Strike Width

    The difference between the strike price of an option and the ...
  1. How does a forward contract differ from a call option?

    Forward contracts and call options are different financial instruments that allow two parties to purchase or sell assets ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are some of the drawbacks of industrialization?

    In economic history, industrialization is the social and economic transformation of the human group from an agrarian society ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What economic indicators are important to consider when investing in the retail sector?

    The unemployment rate and Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rank as two of the most important economic indicators to consider ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What are the main risks associated with trading derivatives?

    The primary risks associated with trading derivatives are market, counterparty, liquidity and interconnection risks. Derivatives ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How can an investor profit from a fall in the utilities sector?

    The utilities sector exhibits a high degree of stability compared to the broader market. This makes it best-suited for buy-and-hold ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Why is the employment figure important to a "dove"

    The employment figure is important to doves, because they are primarily concerned with the health of the labor market. Doves ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!