Sometimes, what appears to be good news at first glance is less auspicious when looked at more closely. That’s certainly the case with recently released federal figures that show an economic resurgence dominated by Maine’s largest city – and the remarkably low rate of economic growth in rural areas of Maine since the beginning of the economic downturn.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, four out of five jobs created in Maine since the summer of 2009 have come out of the Portland metro area. In addition, the areas outside of the Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn and Portland regions had 13,700 fewer jobs as of April than in January 2008. Those rural parts of the state have added only about 700 jobs in more than four years.

Why isn’t this a good thing? Maine firms, no matter where they are, often work with Portland-area suppliers and partners. If companies in rural Maine aren’t healthy, then that hurts Portland in the long run.

And the economy of the state as a whole doesn’t benefit if the high-quality, living-wage job opportunities are limited to certain areas. The regions that are seeing a lot of in-state migration wind up struggling to manage development pressures, while communities that are stagnant or shrinking economically scramble to fund public services with an ever-dwindling property tax base. We’re better off if the growth is distributed more evenly.

This divergence is not unexpected, as Maine recovers slowly from the Great Recession, pulled along by the strong economy of Greater Portland.

Larger forces also are at play, as the recession, across the country, hit rural areas already staggering from the loss of core manufacturing industries.

In 2012, according to a report by the Maine Development Foundation, the poverty rate in the more populated counties of York and Cumberland was 11.4 percent. But the rates were, and remain, much higher in Somerset (17.6 percent), Washington (19.4) and Piscataquis (20) counties.

This disparity is not a new problem, and good people have been working on solutions since the mills and factories first began to struggle. But the challenge is steep, and rural America is not much closer to meeting it.

In Maine, there is some hope. The burgeoning small and organic farming sector has a real chance to blossom into a major industry, with the right support. The state also has to support rural health care initiatives, which come with steady jobs.

It will not be easy to reverse a trend that has its roots in structural changes to the international and national economy. But in rural Maine, it only takes a few jobs here, and a few jobs there, to make a difference.