Whitesburg KY

Good news, bad news

Jobless rate is still low here, but miners to be furloughed

The good news is Letcher County continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Kentucky. The bad news is that one of the county’s leading coal producers will idle its operations here for at least one week this month.

State officials reported this week that Letcher County is one of only 10 counties in Kentucky where the annual unemployment rate was lower in 2008 than it was in 2007. The jobless rate was higher in the state’s 110 other counties.

According to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training in the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, Letcher County’s unemployment rate fell from 7.6 percent at the end of 2007 to 6.9 percent by the end of 2008.

Letcher County’s unemployment rate has since inched up to 7.7 percent, but remains the eighth-lowest in the state.

Meanwhile, in the latest sign of a softening market for coal, Alpha Natural Resources is idling most of its mines in Kentucky and Virginia for a week in April.

The Coalfield Progress in Norton, Va., reports, “The move is driven by growing stockpiles of coal in the wake of dwindling demand from electric utilities and steel producers, company officials say.”

“We have nowhere to put the coal,” Alpha spokesman Ted Pile told the Progress. The move will affect 354 employees in Kentucky and 1,280 in Virginia. It includes seven underground mines, three strip mines and three preparation plants operated by Paramont Coal Co. and D-R Coal Co. in Virginia and Enterprise Mining Co. Enterprise has extensive operations in Letcher and Knott counties.

Letcher County is one of 119 counties where unemployment

Fayette County recorded the lowest jobless rate in the commonwealth at 6.3 percent. Other counties with comparatively lower unemployment rates were Woodford County, 6.6 percent; Pike County, 7.1 percent; Knott and McCracken counties, 7.6 percent each; Calloway, Jessamine and Letcher counties, 7.7 percent each; Perry County, 7.8 percent; and Boone, Boyd and Campbell counties, 7.9 percent each.

Menifee County now has the state’s highest unemployment rate — 17.7 percent. It was followed by Bath County, 16.5 percent; Jackson and Trigg counties, 15.6 percent each; Powell County, 15.4 percent; Magoffin County, 14.3 percent; Lewis and Cumberland counties, 14.2 percent each; Grayson County, 14.1 percent; and Edmonson, Metcalfe and Morgan counties, 13.9 percent each.

In 2008, five Kentucky counties had an annual jobless rate at or above 10 percent compared to three counties that recorded double-digit rates in 2007.

Woodford and Fayette counties’ 4.8 percent annual jobless rates were the lowest in the commonwealth in 2008. They were followed by Warren County, 5.4 percent; Boone, Madison, Jessamine and Scott counties, 5.5 percent each; Oldham County, 5.6 percent; Daviess County, 5.7 percent; and Bourbon, Franklin, McCracken and Shelby counties, 5.8 percent each.

Jackson County recorded the state’s highest annual unemployment rate in 2008 — 11.4 percent. It was followed by Magoffin County, 11 percent; Clay County, 10.3 percent; Grayson County, 10.1 percent; Wolfe County, 10 percent; Morgan and Menifee counties, 9.8 percent each; McCreary County, 9.6 percent; Lewis County, 9.4 percent; and Bell County, 9.1 percent.

Some of the information used in this report was gathered

by the Institute for Rural Journalism, based in Lexington at

the University of Kentucky.

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