Times are tough all across rural America. Nationwide numbers paint a rosy picture of accelerating growth and near-full employment. Swaths of the countryside tell a different story, its protagonists barely scraping by as their jobs drain away in the downturns and don’t come back in the booms…

The recession hit most regions equally but “their recovery was wildly different,’’ he says. “Where the jobs came back doesn’t align to where they disappeared.’’

In Clay County, Kentucky, unemployment is almost double the national rate. After almost 11 years at the diner, Hensley reckons her job there — working shifts of up to 12 hours, six days a week — remains the best she can get.