Employment and Commuting in Appalachia

Appalachia’s labor force participation rates, and the employment rate of those participants, increased from 2015 – 2019. With 95.6% of Appalachia’s labor force employed, the Region is on par with the rest of the nation. However, participation in the civilian labor force for Appalachians ages 25-64 is almost five percentage points below the national average. This gap is even greater in certain areas of the Region.

Learn more about trends in Appalachia’s labor force, employment, and unemployment.

Labor Force Participation
Employment Rate

Labor Force Participation in Appalachia

Unemployment by Subregion

The Region’s unemployment rate of 4.4% for working-age adults in 2015-2019 was 3.2 percentage points lower than its rate in 2010-2014. As the unemployment rate fell, the employment rate increased, especially in Southern Appalachia. Among the states, employment increased the most in the Appalachian sections of Georgia and North Carolina. Elsewhere in the Region, the employment rate rose at least three points among all five urban-rural county types.

Transportation and Commuting Patterns

In 2015-2019, 7.1% of Appalachian households lacked an available vehicle to get to current and/or potential employment, down 0.5 points from 2010-2014. Within the Region, the decline occurred among every subregion, every rural-urban county type, and in the Appalachian portions of almost all 13 states. Furthermore, the share of workers in households with no vehicle available (2.6%) was virtually unchanged in Appalachia between the 2010-2014 and the 2015-2019 periods, falling just 0.1 percentage point.

Employment Location

Almost 32% of Appalachians commute to work outside of the county they live in, surpassing the national average at 28%. This could be due to less nearby employment opportunities in the Region.