A look at rural counties broadband and unemployment

The Cornell Policy Review recently posted an article that caught my eye – Rural Connection: Increasing Broadband Infrastructure to Meet 21st Century Needs. It made the case that rural areas need broadband. Here’s their conclusion…

Time will tell whether or not the efforts to close the rural broadband gap will be successful. Stakeholders in this effort recognize the positive externalities that could come from connecting communities, such as access to health services, education, and infrastructure improvements. Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, said “Without a proper broadband connection, these communities can’t start or run a modern business, access telemedicine, take an online class, digitally transform their farm, or research a school project online,” he adds, “You see this dilemma play out in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data, which shows the highest unemployment rates are frequently located in the counties with the lowest availability of broadband. As a nation, we can’t afford to turn our backs on these communities as we head into the future”

It led me to wonder if the best/worst counties for broadband access lined up with best/worst for unemployment rates. So I looked up the most recent unemployment rates, which are from April. So these reflect the first month of pandemic life. Statewide the unemployment when from:

  • March 2020 – 3.6
  • April 2020 – 8.6
  • May 2020 – 9.4

I looked at the most recent broadband rank (for speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up), unemployment percentage and unemployment rank. I’ll paste the table below. If you download the spreadsheet you’ll see I tried to color-code the top ranking broadband counties and lowest ranking (so best employment) unemployment counties. So red is good.

I was hoping that something might jump out at me as I compared to two statistics. That wasn’t the case. But the info might be helpful on a county level.

Rank 2020 unemployment % unemployment rank
Rock 1 3.8 86
Ramsey 2 9.2 25
Lac qui Parle 3 5.8 76
Swift 4 8.2 40
Beltrami 5 9.1 27
Hennepin 6 8.9 33
Big Stone 7 6.5 66
Dakota 8 9 29
Anoka 9 9.1 26
Pennington 10 10.1 17
Stevens 11 3.8 87
Washington 12 8.2 41
Wadena 13 11.1 9
Cook 14 15.1 2
Lake 15 9.9 19
Olmsted 16 6.9 57
Polk 17 7.2 53
Hubbard 18 10.4 16
Scott 19 9.1 38
Carver 20 7.3 52
Benton 21 9.4 23
Clearwater 22 13.7 3
Clay 23 5.9 75
Winona 24 7.2 56
Steele 25 6.9 59
Crow Wing 26 10.9 10
Freeborn 27 7.9 43
Itasca 28 11.4 6
Chippewa 29 7.8 46
Red Lake 30 9.5 22
Rice 31 6.9 58
Wright 32 8.3 39
Stearns 33 7.9 45
Nobles 34 4.3 85
Kittson 35 6.4 68
Lyon 36 5.5 79
Pipestone 37 4.5 84
Roseau 38 8.4 38
St. Louis 39 10.5 15
Mower 40 6.1 73
Nicollet 41 6.7 61
Blue Earth 42 7.7 47
Dodge 43 6.4 67
Wilkin 44 5.7 78
Waseca 45 8 42
Goodhue 46 8.6 36
Brown 47 6.6 62
Kandiyohi 48 6.1 72
Sherburne 49 9 32
Becker 50 10 18
Pope 51 6 74
Chisago 52 9.4 24
Mahnomen 53 9 30
Le Sueur 54 9.7 20
Morrison 55 9 31
Douglas 56 7.5 48
Houston 57 6.1 71
Jackson 58 5.2 81
Koochiching 59 10.6 14
Watonwan 60 5.5 80
Marshall 61 6.6 64
Cottonwood 62 4.8 82
Wabasha 63 7.5 49
Otter Tail 64 7.9 44
Renville 65 7.2 54
Cass 66 13.2 4
Sibley 67 7.2 55
Grant 68 6.7 60
Mille Lacs 69 11.3 8
McLeod 70 17.4 1
Martin 71 7.4 50
Lake of the Woods 72 10.8 12
Norman 73 8.9 34
Meeker 74 6.6 65
Fillmore 75 6.6 63
Carlton 76 10.7 13
Murray 77 6.2 70
Traverse 78 5.7 77
Todd 79 6.3 69
Isanti 80 9.6 21
Aitkin 81 11.3 7
Faribault 82 8.5 37
Lincoln 83 4.6 83
Pine 84 12 5
Yellow Medicine 85 7.4 51
Redwood 86 8.8 35
Kanabec 87 10.8 11
This entry was posted in economic development, MN, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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