America's 4.1% unemployment rate doesn't exactly bring smiles to the leaders of America's small towns. "Eventually you run out of people to do the work," is how one economist puts it to the Wall Street Journal. And we're nearing that eventuality, following an exodus of the key class of working Americans—ages 25 to 54—from these areas a decade ago during the recession. They haven't come back, and these towns and suburbs are now dangling some big carrots in an effort to reverse that. The Journal catalogs incentives, like the $5,000 that Grant County, Ind., is offering people who move there to put toward a home. But the paper really zeros in on the situation by focusing on Hamilton, Ohio, a city of 62,000 some 45 minutes from Cincinnati.
Per state records, it has 5,800 jobs waiting to be filled, and an area foundation is trying to turn the tide: It's offering 11 people skilled in engineering, science, tech, or the arts $5,000 to put toward their student loans if they'll commit to living in downtown Hamilton for two years. The group has received a dozen applications so far. But the battle can be an uphill one: The Journal reports a 29-year-old living outside Philadelphia had planned to apply in hopes of trimming down his $30,000 in college debt—but he landed a job in Philly that gives him $100 a month for student loans. And big cities aside, there's competition among small locales: The aforementioned Grant County plans to soon also offer $9,000 for student loans, bringing its package to $14,000. Read the Journal's full story for much more. (Read more unemployment stories.)