Kentucky unemployment lowest ever recorded

Published 7:23 am Friday, April 20, 2018


News release

FRANKFORT — Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary March unemployment rate was 4 percent, the lowest rate recorded for the state in the 42 years since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started providing data in 1976, according to the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. The unemployment rate for March 2018 was down from the revised 4.1 percent reported for February 2018.

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The preliminary March 2018 jobless rate was down 1.2 percentage points from the 5.2 percent recorded for the state in March 2017.

The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate for March 2018 was unchanged from the 4.1 percent reported for February 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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

In March 2018, Kentucky’s civilian labor force was 2,049,934, a increase of 941 individuals compared to the previous month. The number of people employed was up by 2,915, while the number unemployed decreased by 1,974.

In a separate federal survey of business establishments that excludes jobs in agriculture and people who are self-employed, Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment increased by 1,200 jobs in March 2018 compared to February 2018. Kentucky has added 4,500 jobs since March 2017, a 0.2-percent employment growth.

“Kentucky’s employment continued to improve in March with employers adding 1,200 jobs and unemployment rate declining to 4 percent. However, as the labor market has tightened, growth in payroll employment has slowed somewhat,” said University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research Director Chris Bollinger, Ph.D.

Nonfarm data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics program. According to this survey, five of Kentucky’s 11 major nonfarm North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) job sectors experienced employment growth from the previous month, while five sectors saw employment decreases in March and one was unchanged.

• Kentucky’s, trade, transportation and utilities employment recorded the largest increase in March 2018 with 1,700 jobs. This sector was up 9,900 positions or 2.5 percent from March 2017 to March 2018. From February 2018 to March 2018, wholesale trade increased by 400 jobs; retail trade rose by 200; and transportation, warehousing and utilities increased by 1,100 positions.

“Transportation, warehousing and utilities showed strong employment growth again in March, led by growth in transportation, warehousing and utilities,” said Bollinger.

• Construction employment jumped by 1,000 jobs from February 2018 to March 2018, a gain of 1.3 percent. Over the past 12 months, construction employment was down by 1,600 jobs or 2 percent.

• The financial activities sector gained 300 positions from February 2018 to March 2018, but has 300 fewer jobs than last March. Within this sector, finance and insurance gained 200 jobs in March 2018 and the real estate, rental and leasing subsector gained 100 positions.  

• The professional and business services sector gained 100 jobs in March 2018 and has added 400 jobs since March 2017. Within the sector, employment in professional, scientific and technical services was up 300 jobs from February 2018, and up 2,000 jobs from March 2017. Employment in management of companies was unchanged from February, but down by 1,200 since last March. Administrative and support and waste management lost 200 jobs from February 2018 to March 2018, and was down 400 positions from a year ago.

• The government sector added 100 jobs in March 2018. Within this sector, federal employment declined by 100 jobs; state employment increased by 100 positions; and local government employment increased by 100 jobs. Since March 2017, government employment was down by 800 jobs or 0.3 percent.

• The number of jobs in mining and logging did not change from February 2018 to March 2018. Employment in this sector is down by 100 jobs since March 2017.

• Kentucky’s manufacturing lost 700 jobs in March 2018, a decrease of 0.3 percent. Durable goods manufacturing lost 300 jobs while non-durable goods manufacturing fell by 400 positions. Since March 2017, Kentucky’s manufacturing sector has remained unchanged.

• The leisure and hospitality sector decreased by 400 jobs from February 2018 to March 2018, a 0.2 percent loss. Accommodations and food service declined by 500 jobs, while arts, entertainment and recreation gained 100 jobs in March. Since March 2017, this sector has lost 2,500 positions or 1.3 percent.

• Employment in the information services sector fell by 300 jobs in March 2018. This sector has declined by 800 jobs or 3.5 percent since March 2017. The industries in this sector include traditional publishing as well as software publishing; motion pictures and broadcasting; and telecommunications.

• The education and health services sector dropped by 300 jobs in March 2018. Within this sector, employment in educational services fell by 200 positions, and health care and social assistance declined by 100 jobs. Employment in this sector has fallen by 1,100 jobs since a year ago.

“While health care employment typically shows consistent growth, it has declined in nine of the last 12 months,” said Bollinger. “As a result, health care employment was lower in both February and March than the year before.”

• Employment in the other services sector decreased by 300 positions in March 2018, but added 1,400 from a year ago. This represents a growth rate of 2.1 percent from March 2017 to March 2018. Other services includes repairs and maintenance, personal care services and religious organizations.

Civilian labor force statistics include nonmilitary 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.

Kentucky’s statewide unemployment rate and employment levels are seasonally adjusted. Employment statistics undergo sharp fluctuations due to seasonal events, such as weather changes, harvests, holidays and school openings and closings. Seasonal adjustments eliminate these influences and make it easier to observe statistical trends. However, because of the small sample size, county unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.

Learn more about Kentucky labor market information at