More than 100 people found jobs in Letcher County between March and April, cutting the unemployment rate here to 11.1 percent from its most recent high of 12.3 percent.
According to the latest figures released by the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, Letcher County is one of 110 Kentucky counties where the jobless rate fell in April. Nine other counties saw unemployment worsen and one county remained unchanged.
Woodford County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 5.1 percent. Fayette, Hancock, Oldham and Shelby counties all had jobless rates of 6 percent or less.
Fulton County’s 20.5 percent jobless rate was the state’s highest. Magoffin County was next at 15.7 percent, followed by Jackson and Leslie counties, both of which were above 13 percent.
In Letcher County, 8,106 people held jobs in April, compared with 8,002 in March. While 1,118 members of Letcher’s 9,120-member labor force were receiving unemployment compensation in March, that number fell to 1,011 in April.
Like other coal producing counties in southeastern Kentucky, Letcher County has been hit hard by layoffs by mining companies which were forced to cut production after an unusually warm winter and historic low natural gas prices cut into the amount of coal being used to produce electrical power.
Letcher County is second to Perry County in the number of people who hold jobs in the eight-county Kentucky River Area Development District. In Perry County, where the jobless rate fell to 10.9 percent from 11.7 percent, 10,390 people had jobs in April, up from 10,254 in March. Two KRADD counties where little coal production occurs — Owsley and Breathitt — are now in the unaccustomed roles of having the lowest unemployment rate in the district at 10.6 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively.
Neighboring Knott County had 5,644 residents with jobs in April, giving it an unemployment rate of 11.4 percent.
Pike County, the state’s largest county and one which also neighbors Letcher, had the lowest jobless rate in eastern Kentucky in April, 7.8 percent. That figure was also down from the March rate of 8.8 percent. Pike County, a member of the Big Sandy Area Development District, had 23,681 residents with jobs last month, while 2,012 were drawing jobless benefits.
Harlan County had a jobless rate of 11.7 percent in April.