Areas outside of Greater Seattle continue to post higher unemployment rates than the state average.

The graph below uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics survey. The Seattle-Bellevue-Everett line captures the dramatic concentration of prosperity in Washington State. When left out of the mix, Washington’s unemployment rate rises more than two percentage points.

One of the reasons that Washington’s unemployment rate goes up with the exclusion of Seattle, Bellevue and Everett is due to the urban-rural divide that persists in Washington. High unemployment in rural counties results from dependence on natural resource-based industries like agriculture, fishing, and timber. The concentration of employment amongst these industries is often problematic because it is either highly seasonal or provides few jobs to begin with.

The disparity within Washington State, especially between urban and rural areas, is nothing new. Over the years, multiple packages of tax breaks and other incentives have attempted to lure new businesses to rural Washington and encourage the expansion of existing ones. Unfortunately, none has resulted in major gains for rural communities. However, today there are some rural communities where new industries are taking off. For instance, The Tri-Cities economy is growing thanks to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Yakima and Walla Walla are cultivating the state’s booming wine industry. A 17  billion dollar food processing industry now employs roughly 40,000 people throughout the state. And, in Moses Lake, high-tech manufacturing has become a propeller of economic growth.

This problem is not exclusive to rural communities. Even in urban communities, unemployment poses a bigger threat outside of the Seattle area. Tacoma for instance, posted an unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.4% for July 2015, versus the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett rate of 4%.

Again, its industry composition that contributes largely to these differences. Five out of Tacoma’s eight major employers are public sector. Compare that to Seattle, which is anchored by innovative, technology-focused firms like Amazon, Boeing, and Microsoft. The hope for urban areas lies in the newfound focus on economic development within metropolitan areas, rather than individual cities. This type of regional planning can connect cities to create a rising tide of growth.