ARC announces county economic status designations for fiscal year 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Appalachian Regional Commission Tuesday released its County Economic Status Designations for Fiscal Year 2020, which annually ranks the economic status of each of the Region’s 420 counties using national data.

According to ARC’s County Economic Status Designations for Fiscal Year 2020, 80 counties will be considered distressed (ranking among the worst 10% of counties in the nation); 110 counties will be considered At-Risk (ranking between the worst 10–25% of counties in the nation); 217 counties will be considered Transitional (ranking between worst 25% and best 25% of counties in the nation); 10 counties will be considered Competitive (ranking between best 25% and best 10% of counties in the nation); and 3 counties will be considered Attainment (ranking among the best 10% of counties in the nation).

ARC’s County Economic Status Designation for Fiscal Year 2020 also found:

  • FY 2020 will have the lowest number of designated distressed counties in Appalachia since 2008.
  • 29 Appalachian counties across 8 states experienced positive shifts in the economic status since FY 2019. This primarily includes counties in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi which each have five or more counties experiencing positive economic status shifts.
  • 18 Appalachian counties will experience negative shifts in their economic status since FY 2019. This primary includes coal impacted counties in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

“Parts of the Appalachian Region face significant economic challenges compared to the rest of the country, and by releasing this data publicly in an accessible format, ARC is seeking to ensure awareness of these challenges, and to inform policymakers at all levels,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas. “ARC and our state partners use this data to direct critical investments toward distressed areas, and I am pleased to see net improvements in many parts of the Region compared to previous years.”

To determine the economic status of each of the Region’s 420 counties, ARC applies a composite index formula drawing on the latest data available on per capita market income combined with the previous three-year average unemployment rate, and the previous five-year poverty rates.  With this data, each county is classified into one of the five economic designations.

Analysis of the composite index value also showed these changes between the County Economic Status Designations for FY 2020 compared to County Economic Status Designations for Fiscal Year 2019:

  • Per capita market income increased in both Appalachia and the nation as a whole. However, the nation as a whole grew by 0.2 percentage points more, widening the income gap between Appalachia and the nation.
  • Poverty rates in Appalachia and the nation as a whole dropped 0.4 percentage points and 0.5 percentage points respectively. This continued to widen the gap between Appalachia’s poverty rate (16.3%) and the nation’s rate (14.6%).
  • The three-year average unemployment rate decreased at the same rate (0.6%) in both Appalachia and the rest of the nation.

Data tables, source methodology, and a link to an interactive mapping tool featuring the economic status of each Appalachian county is available at www.arc.gov/research/MapsofAppalachia.asp?MAP_ID=149.

ARC has been issuing index-based County Economic Status Designations on annual basis since 2007, primarily to help the Region’s 13 states develop economic investment strategies for the forthcoming year. In FY 2018, 279 projects totaling 64% of ARC investment dollars had a direct impact on distressed counties.  ARC is currently in FY 2019, which ends September, 30, 2019. ARC’s County Economic Status Designations for FY 2020 will be effective October 1, 2019–September 30, 2020 for investment purposes.

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