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Jobs Are Moving Beyond Louisville Residents' Typical Commutes, Report Says

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The number of jobs within Louisville area residents' typical commute distances decreased 11 percent from 2000 to 2012, according to a report released this month by the Brookings Institution.

A typical commute for Louisville area residents is 7.6 miles, according to the report. Typical commute distances are "based on the median commute distance in each metro area" and measured "as the crow flies," per the report.

The report shows in 2000 nearly 160,000 jobs were located within the typical commute distance for Louisville area residents. By 2012, that number of jobs fell to about 141,000.

The loss of nearby jobs in Louisville is a trend being seen across the nation, said Natalie Holmes, senior research assistant at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy program and co-author of the report.

"Jobs are moving to the suburbs," she said. And the decentralization of jobs in regards to city centers has been occurring since the early 2000s, according to a 2009 Brookings report.

In the 12-year study period, jobs in the 96 largest metro areas declined by an average of 7.2 percent, according to the report.

Louisville ranks 77th among the 96 largest metro areas in job retention in metro areas during the 12 years study period, the report shows.

Here is a look at how job growth and job decline affected the Louisville area.


Here are job loss and job growth rates in some of Louisville's peer cities.

  • Knoxville: 10.4 percent job gain in metro area
  • Charlotte: 6.3 percent job gain in metro area
  • Oklahoma City: 0.8 percent job gain in metro area
  • Indianapolis: 10.6 percent job loss in metro area
  • Nashville: 4.5 percent job loss in metro area
  • Columbus, Ohio: 7.9 percent job loss in metro area
  • Cincinnati: 14.5 percent job loss in metro area


And here is a look at the rest of the 96 metro areas examined by the researchers.

Holmes and her research team examined U.S. Census tract level data in the study. They also found the geography of poverty seems to be shifting.

"For the first time, now a majority of poor people in the country's largest metro areas live in suburbs, not in cities," she said.

Poverty growth rate is higher in the suburbs than in the urban core, she said.

There are several reasons, she said. But it is not a direct result of the 2008 recession, though it may "have accelerated the trend."

She said the cost of living is on the upswing in urban areas, which pushes people to suburbs. Another reason is that people already living in suburbs become poor.

Despite those issues, both jobs and people are moving away from the urban core not only in Louisville, but in most metro areas across the country. But people living in the suburbs are also not much closer to potential employers than they were nearly 15 years ago, Holmes said.

It's a trend that hits poorest residents hardest, she added.

In Louisville, suburban residents living in poverty saw a near 33 percent decline in nearby jobs from 2000-2012, according to the report. Non-impoverished residents saw just a 9 percent decline.

Holmes said this is because "suburbs tend to be less dense and jobs and people may not be in the same places."

"All suburban communities are not created equal," she said. "It's possible you're moving to a place for affordability that doesn't have good job access."

And she said where jobs are going is important to regional vitality.

For instance, job growth has boomed in areas of Bullitt County, the report shows some areas of the county just south of Jefferson County had nearly 96 percent more jobs in 2012 than in 2000.

However, for residents in southern Indiana and western Louisville, where poverty rates are as high as 73 percent, getting to those jobs in Bullitt County or in Oldham County (24 percent job growth from 2000-2012) may be difficult.

"The fact that jobs are growing in the south part of the metro area doesn't benefit people in the north part of the metro necessarily," she said. "They're going to have to travel a lot farther to take advantage of those opportunities."

In October 2014 Louisville earned a 36 place ranking among the 46 largest metro areas for accessibility to jobs.

When residents live near jobs, they have a greater chance of being employed or being unemployed for shorter periods of time, Holmes said.

"How the region is doing as a whole does not necessarily translate into people being better off," she added.

Holmes said policy makers and city officials "really should think regionally in terms of making sure that people in the region are connected to opportunities with respect to transit, housing, economic development."

No community, regardless of economic status, should exist in isolation, she said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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