Letcher County had 48 coal mining jobs at the end of the third quarter of 2017, an increase from only 28 mining jobs for the quarter ending June 30 but down 35.1 percent from September 30, 2016, when 74 miners still held jobs in coal mines located inside the county.
Coal employment and production figures released this month by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet also show that Letcher County mines produced 46,133 tons for the three-month period beginning July 1 and ending September 30, a 13.1-percent decrease from the 53,064 tons that were mined here during the three months ending April 30. Surface mines accounted for nearly all the production, the Cabinet reports in its “Kentucky Quarterly Coal Report.”
Letcher County now ranks 12th among the 16 coal-producing counties in eastern Kentucky, trailing Whitley, Johnson, Pulaski, Knott, Martin, Leslie, Floyd, Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Perry and Pike counties.
“Pike County remained the top coal-producing county in eastern Kentucky during the third quarter of 2017 by mining just under 1.1 million tons, a 7.6 percent decrease from the previous quarter, but a 0.3 percent increase from the previous year,” the report says. “Perry County produced just under 1 million tons to rank second in coal production in eastern Kentucky. Harlan remained third in production with 555 thousand tons.”
Letcher County was one of the few counties in both eastern and western Kentucky that added jobs during the latest three-month period.
“During the third quarter of 2017, Kentucky coal mines decreased total employment by 349 jobs, a 5.1 percent drop from the second quarter of 2017,” the report says. “On a year over year basis, Kentucky coal mines increased total employment by 2.1 percent or 133 jobs.”
Pike County, the state’s largest county, lost 170 jobs during the third-quarter, dropping that county’s total mine employment to 929 jobs, still the most in eastern Kentucky. Harlan County lost 120 jobs during the period, but still ranks second in eastern Kentucky mining employment with 762 jobs. Third-ranked Perry County now has 691 mining jobs.
Neighboring Knott County continues to bleed mining jobs, falling to 72 miners working at the end of the third quarter from 177 at the end of March.
The report also points out that Perry County leads the region in the number of coal jobs picked up during the last year, adding 167 since September 2016. Floyd County’s mining jobs grew 134
Union County in western Kentucky continues to be the state’s largest coalproducing county, mining 2.228 million tons of coal during the third quarter. Pike County is second with 1.066 million tons mined during the quarter, followed by the 1.053 million tons mined in Ohio County, also in western Kentucky. Union County has 659 miners, while Ohio County has 490.