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Jobless rate is down even though county has far fewer jobs

Letcher County’s unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest mark in several years even though nearly 500 fewer people have jobs now when compared to only two years ago.

According to state and federal statistics, Letcher County’s jobless rate for August 2018 — the most current date available — stood at 6.5 percent with 5,687 county residents holding down jobs. That number represents 487 fewer Letcher Countians with jobs than in October 2016, when 6,312 residents were working but the unemployment rate was 10.3 percent. Statistics also show the county’s workforce has fallen by more than 1,678 jobs since this time in 2011, when 7,936 Letcher residents were working.

According to the statistics, which are available through the Kentucky Center for Statistics, Letcher County’s jobless rate also fell in August despite 31 residents filing for unemployment insurance.

Historically, Letcher County’s lowest unemployment rate was recorded in October 2001 at 5.6 percent. The county’s highest jobless rate ever was in June 1991, when 22 percent of the county’s certified labor force was out of work.

According to the Center for Statistics, jobless rates fell in 115 of Kentucky’s 120 counties between August 2017 and August 2018, rising only in Owen, Monroe and Metcalfe counties, and staying the same in Nelson and Lyon counties. Letcher County’s jobless rate in 2017 was 8.9 percent.

Boone, Campbell and Woodford counties recorded the lowest jobless rates in the Commonwealth at 3.1 percent each in August. They were followed by Fayette, Kenton and Oldham counties, 3.2 percent each; Scott, Shelby and Spencer counties, 3.3 percent each; and Jessamine and Washington counties, 3.4 percent each.

Magoffin County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at the end of August at 11.7 percent. It was followed by Carter County, 8.9 percent; Elliott County, 7.8 percent; Harlan County, 7.5 percent; Owsley County, 7.2 percent; Clay, Knott and Leslie counties, 6.9 percent each; Breathitt County, 6.7 percent; and Lewis and Wolfe counties, 6.6 percent each.

Neighboring Pike County had a jobless rate of 5.7 percent at the end of August, while the rate for Perry County was reported at 6.3 percent.

Statewide, employment in Kentucky’s mining and logging sector was unchanged from July 2018 to August 2018. Employment in this sector is up 100 positions since August 2017.

Kentucky’s education and health services sector added 1,400 jobs in August 2018. Within this sector, health care and social assistance gained 1,300 jobs and educational services increased by 100 jobs. Employment in education and health services for August 2018 was up 900 since a year ago.

Kentucky’s manufacturing sector shrunk by 2,300 jobs from July 2018 to August 2018, a decrease of 0.9 percent. The losses occurred within durable goods manufacturing. Employment in nondurable goods manufacturing was up 100 jobs in August. Kentucky’s manufacturing employment was down 3,700 since August 2017.

“The decreases in manufacturing employment have persisted over the past few months,” said Clark. “April, July, and August saw relatively large decreases in employment. While employment did increase in May and June, the increases were not sufficient to offset these losses.”

Construction employment declined by 1,400 positions, or 1.8 percent, from July 2018 to August 2018. Over the past 12 months, construction employment has dropped by 2,600 positions or 3.4 percent.

Kentucky’s trade, transportation and utilities sector fell by 900 jobs in August 2018. From July 2018 to August 2018, wholesale trade gained 200 positions; retail trade lost 600 positions; and transportation, warehousing and utilities lost 500 positions. This sector has added 10,800 positions or 2.7 percent since August 2017.

The Center for Statistics cautions that unemployment statistics are based on estimates and are compiled to measure trends rather than actually to count 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. The data should only be compared to the same month in previous years, the center says.

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