Only 46 percent of Letcher County women between the ages of 25 and 54 held jobs during a four-year period ending 2013, a number that is 24 percent lower than the national average.
In the United States, 70 percent of women ages 25 to 54 worked between the years 2009 and 2013, compared to 74 percent in 1999, reports the New York Times. But in eastern Kentucky and in some other rural areas those numbers drop considerably.
“The places with the highest rates of non-work include parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas and Michigan,” the Times reports. “These same areas have also had a sharp increase in health coverage in the last year, in part because more people without jobs can now obtain health insurance.”
According to an interactive map accompanying the Times story, 4,953 Letcher County women had jobs during the period between 2009-2013. The map shows that a fewer percentage of Letcher women hold jobs than in the neighboring counties of Pike (46 percent), Knott (58 percent), Perry (50 percent), and Wise County, Virginia (56 percent). Only 41 percent of the women in neighboring Harlan County held jobs during the four-year period.
The Times also reports that 56 percent of Letcher County men (4,881) held jobs between 2009 and 2013, a number that is on par with neighboring counties. The reports shows that 58 percent of the men in Pike (13,042) and Harlan (5,526) held jobs, while 56 percent held jobs in Wise County (9,220) and 55 percent of Knott County men (3,275) were employed. The 5,873 men in Perry County who held jobs during the period represented the area’s highest percentage, 63 percent.
Notes the Times: “Employment rates are notably low for both men and women in greater Appalachia, particularly in West Virginia and Kentucky. The region is on the wrong end of two big trends: It’s coal country, which is suffering amid the concerns about pollution and climate change; and fracking is rising in North Dakota and elsewhere. Appalachia also has low levels of educational attainment at a time when education has become an economic dividing line.
“Where West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia come together, there are numerous census tracts in which half — and sometimes even more — of both prime-age men and prime-age women are not working.”
At least two central Kentucky counties and one northern Kentucky county had more men and women working than the national average. In Fayette County 81 percent of men held jobs, compared to 74 of women. In Woodford County, 88 percent of the men and 72 percent of the women had employment. Boone County, located near Cincinnati, had 86 percent of its men and 72 percent of its women working between 2009 and 2013.