Kentucky’s 2019 annual unemployment rate holds steady at 4.3 percent, according to KYSTATS report

Kentucky’s annual unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in 2019 unchanged from 4.3 percent in 2018, while nonfarm employment gained 8,600 jobs, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

The U.S. annual unemployment rate dropped to 3.7 percent in 2019 from 3.9 percent in 2018.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ estimate of the number of employed Kentuckians for 2019 was 1,983,577. This figure is up 14,966 from the 1,968,611 employed in 2018.

The number of unemployed Kentuckians for 2019 was 89,009, down 171 from the 89,180 unemployed in 2018. There were 124,027 fewer individuals unemployed in 2019 than 10 years ago, when the national economy was just beginning to emerge from the recession.

In 2019, the estimated number of Kentuckians in the civilian labor force was 2,072,586. This is up 14,795 from the 2,057,791 recorded in 2018, and up 12,424 from 10 years ago when the civilian labor force was 2,060,162.

Labor force statistics, including the unemployment rate, are based on estimates from the Current Population Survey of households. The survey is designed to measure trends in the number of people working. It includes jobs in agriculture and individuals who are self-employed.

Ten states experienced a statistically significant decrease in their annual unemployment rates from 2018 to 2019. Mississippi was the only state to have a statistically significant increase in its unemployment rate. Rates in the remaining 39 states were little changed from 2018 to 2019.

Kentucky’s unemployment rate for 2019 was higher than 41 states and lower than seven states. Kentucky’s rate was tied with Washington. Alaska had the highest unemployment rate in 2019 at 6.1 percent. North Dakota and Vermont had the lowest rates at 2.4 percent. Among its surrounding states, Kentucky’s unemployment rate was lower than West Virginia and higher than Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and Tennessee.

In a separate federal survey of business establishments that excludes jobs in agriculture and people who are self-employed, Kentucky’s nonfarm payroll in 2019 increased by 8,600 or 0.4 percent to 1,938,700 jobs.

“Kentucky’s employment has now grown for ten consecutive years,” said University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) Interim Director Mike Clark, Ph.D. “However, these revised employment estimates suggest the rate of employment growth has been slowing over the last three years.”

Nonfarm data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics program. According to this survey, six of Kentucky’s 11 major nonfarm job sectors listed in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) showed employment growth in 2019, while five reported losses.

According to the annual employment data, the educational and health services sector rose by 5,300 jobs in 2019 and 33,500, or 13.4 percent, over the past 10 years. This growth is driven by hiring in the healthcare and social assistance subsector, which added 5,500 jobs in 2019 and 34,200 jobs over the past 10 years.

Educational services in this sector include employees at private elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools along with other establishments that provide instruction and training. Education services declined by 200 jobs from 2018 to 2019, or 0.7 percent, and decreased by 700 jobs over the past 10 years.

The leisure and hospitality sector grew by 3,600 positions in 2019, and 33,700 jobs or 20.1 percent in the past 10 years. Within the sector are arts, entertainment and recreation, and accommodation and food services.

Kentucky’s construction sector added 2,300 jobs in 2019, for a growth of 2.9 percent. The sector has expanded by 6,400 jobs or 8.7 percent since 2009.

Kentucky’s manufacturing sector expanded by 500 jobs or 0.2 percent in 2019 for a total of 252,100 positions. Over the past 10 years, manufacturing employment is up 39,000 jobs, a gain of 18.3 percent. Durable manufacturing added approximately 200 jobs, or 0.1 percent from 2018 to 2019 and non-durable manufacturing added 200 jobs, or 0.2 percent.

“Employment growth in Kentucky’s manufacturing sector has slowed over the past three years,” said Clark. “This likely reflects slower economic growth globally and changes in U.S. trade policy over the past couple of years, which likely caused businesses to postpone investments.”

The financial activities sector gained 200 jobs from a year ago. Over the past 10 years, this sector has added 4,900 jobs or 5.5 percent. Within this sector, the finance and insurance subsector lost 400 jobs in 2019, while real estate, rental and leasing added 700 jobs in 2019.

Other services, a sector that includes repair and maintenance; personal and laundry services; and religious, civic, and professional organizations, increased by 200 jobs in 2019. The sector has lost 4,300 jobs or 6.1 percent in the last 10 years.

The government sector, which includes federal, state and local employment in public education, public administration agencies and state-owned hospitals, dropped by 1,600 jobs or 0.5 percent 2019. In the last 10 years, the sector has gained 200 positions or 0.1 percent. Employment was down 800 jobs in federal government, down 1,000 jobs in state government, and up 200 jobs in local government during the past year.

Employment in the state’s professional and business services sector lost 700 jobs in 2019, a decrease of 0.3 percent. This sector includes professional, scientific and technical services, management of companies, and administrative and support management. In the last 10 years, the sector has grown by 43,200 jobs or 24.9 percent. This category also includes temporary help agencies that provide workers to other businesses on a contractual basis. Within the sector, professional, scientific, and technical services gained 700 jobs; management of companies lost 200 jobs; and administrative and support and waste management lost 1,200 jobs.

“Much of the lost employment in Kentucky’s professional and business sector appears to reflect a reduction in the use of workers hired through temporary employment agencies,” said Clark. “Firms often employ temporary workers as a way to manage uncertainty in their businesses. After the recession, firms significantly increased their use of temporary employees. As the economy improves, firms are generally more willing to make these employees permanent. In these instances, a decline in temporary workers will often show up as a gain in other sectors.”

Kentucky’s trade, transportation and utilities sector lost 500 jobs or 0.1 percent in 2019. During the past 10 years, the number of jobs increased by 40,300 jobs, or 11.1 percent. This is Kentucky’s largest sector based on employment with a total of 402,900 jobs or 21 percent of Kentucky’s nonfarm employment. Within the sector, wholesale trade gained 600 jobs from 2018 to 2019, retail trade lost 4,500 jobs, and businesses in transportation, warehousing and utilities added 3,200 jobs.

“Changes within Kentucky’s trade, transportation and utilities sector appear to reflect changing patterns in how consumers shop,” said Clark. “As on-line shopping grows, employment in food, beverage, and general merchandise stores has declined. Transportation and warehousing employment, however, has increased to help fulfill these on-line orders.”

The information sector, which includes establishments involved in publishing, Internet activities, data processing, broadcasting and news syndication, decreased by 400 jobs in 2019 from a year ago. It lost 3,900 jobs or 15.3 percent compared to 10 years ago.

Employment in the mining and logging sector fell by one percent with the loss of 100 jobs in 2019. Over a 10-year period, the sector has decreased by 13,600 jobs. Other industries included in the sector are forestry; oil and gas extraction; and support activities for mining.

Unemployment statistics are based on estimates and are compiled to measure trends rather than actually to count the number of people working. Civilian labor force statistics include non-military workers and unemployed Kentuckians who are actively seeking work. They do not include unemployed Kentuckians who have not looked for employment within the past four weeks.

Learn more about Kentucky labor market information at

Additional information is available on the Education & Workforce Development Cabinet website.

From Education & Workforce Development Cabinet

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