Rural Labor Market Overview

Rural Labor Market Update

Present By Dr. Guerrero


This past week I had the opportunity to collaborate with twenty other rural superintendents across the nation, Hanover Research Group, and the AASA. The rural labor market has experienced shifts since the COVID 19 pandemic. The immediate disruptions impacted the workforce not just with unemployment rates but with changes of workforce participation. When labor force participation declines, percent employment change shows less recovery than changes in the unemployment rate. With these changes also came the shift of employment opportunities to growth in more service and knowledge-based industries. Remote work and shifts in industry trends pose a new challenges for rural communities and school districts.

2020-2030 Projected Industry trends (Hanover Research, 2022, p. 5)

  • Employment in leisure and hospitality is projected to grow the fastest
  • Employment in healthcare and social assistances is projected to add the most jobs, about 3.3 million over 2020-2030
  • Technology advancements increase in professional business, scientific services, computer services, etc…
  • Retail trade projected to lose 586,800 jobs over 2020-2030
  • Manufacturing sectors are projected to have the most rapid employment decline

Ten Fastest Growing Occupations, Projected 2020-2030

Solar photovoltaic installers


Wind Turbine Service Technicians 

Physical Therapist assistants

Nurse Practitioners 

Information security analysts

Home health and personal care aides

Medical and health services managers

Data scientists and mathematical science occupations

Physical assistants 

According to the Hanover Report (2022) 

Globally and nationally, rural communities have seen shifts in industry growth with declines in the agriculture industry.The Center for American Progress suggests“although agriculture, manufacturing, and mining have been the mainstays of the rural economy, due to increasing concentration of industries creating firms with extreme market power, this is no longer the case.” Instead, employment opportunities in rural communities across the U.S. are greatest in the service sector, especially in healthcare, education, and social services. Agriculture and manufacturing remain critical industries in rural economies; however, they are evolving with technological advances and require a wider range of skills than they did previously. (p. 6)

Waverly Response made since Spring 2022

  • Established the CTE Symposium and Outreach with the purpose “to leverage and connect the  education policy to business education, Waverly educators and local employers we are hosting discussions to inform the development of our onsite CTE programs.” 
    • Identified from local employers on the committee and the 9 Employability Skill Categories to focus on the following three skills to be emphasized and built into the career specific courses
    • Communication Skills
    • Interpersonal Skills
    • Critical Thinking Skills 
  • The career specific courses offered at Waverly include: 
    • Career Exploration
    • eGaming
    • Computer Applications
    • Financial Literacy
    • Accounting I & II
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Technology Concepts
    • Business Communications
    • Consumer Resource Management
  • Added a career exploration pathway for all 8th graders
  • Increase course rigor around critical thinking and problem solving
  • Increase math opportunities with K12 curriculum adoption 
  • Implemented Spring Math grade K6 to assist in mastering math facts and mental math
  • Implementing Major Clarity with the support of CACC

Virtual (online) work has impacted the workforce and school system. Next steps have included discussions during High School Teacher Collaborations so Waverly educators can continue to integrate and accelerate student technical and communication skills in virtual environment. Job specific skills that are common in virtual (online) work include: listening, speaking, problem-solving, creativity, staying positive, aiming high, leadership and teamwork (Hanover, 2022, p. 7). The Illinois Future of Work Report cites the need to “invest in programs and organizations providing support services to enable all farms to access new technologies and sustainable  practices (The Future of Work in Illinois, p.IX)

Waverly CUSD 6 response since Spring 2022

  • New English curriculum to support writing, reading, listening, and student led  evidence based discussion groups
  • MTSS system to increase student self regulation, self awareness, and positivity 
  • Increase art and music curriculum minutes grades K6 to assist with exploring creativity 
  • Increase library time focused on developing listening skills and speaking skills K6
  • Increased elective offerings for HS Arts to include theater 
  • Grades 7 and 8 required elective covering topics like career exploration, leadership, note-taking, collaboration 

At Waverly, the District leadership continues to partner with stakeholders to support technology skills, co-create curriculum, and evaluate current systems and strategies to meet the current and future needs of our students and local community. 


Hanover. (2022). (issue brief). Rural Labor Market Analysis; Prepared for AASA, The School Superintendent Association (pp. 1–11). Hanover Research .

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