Education, health care hiring push Kentucky jobless rate down to 4.0% in March

(18 April 2019 - The Lane Report) Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary March 2019 unemployment rate was 4 percent, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), an agency within the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. The unemployment rate for March 2019 was down from the 4.1 percent reported for February 2019.

The preliminary March 2019 jobless rate was down 0.3 percentage points from the 4.3 percent recorded for the state in March 2018.

The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate for March 2019 was 3.8 percent, unchanged from its February 2019 level, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Labor force statistics, including the unemployment rate, are based on estimates from the Current Population Survey of households. The survey is designed to measure trends in the number of people working. It includes jobs in agriculture and individuals who are self-employed.

Kentucky civilian labor force increased by 1,460 individuals in March 2019, bringing the state’s labor force to 2,064,737. The number of people employed in March was up by 2,381, while the number unemployed decreased by 921.

In a separate federal survey of business establishments that excludes jobs in agriculture and people who are self-employed, Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment decreased by 1,300 jobs in March 2019 compared to February 2019. Kentucky has added 17,400 jobs since March 2018, a 0.9 percent employment growth.

“The two surveys that measure employment provided somewhat different stories for March,” said University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) Associate Director Mike Clark, Ph.D. “The survey of business establishments indicated that after four months of growth, payroll employment decreased in March. The survey of households, however, showed that more people were employed in March and fewer were unemployed, resulting in a lower unemployment rate. While the surveys occasionally point different directions in a given month, they generally show similar trends over time.”

Nonfarm data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics program. According to this survey, six of Kentucky’s 11 major nonfarm North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) job sectors saw employment increases from the previous month while four declined and one was unchanged.

Employment in the Kentucky’s educational and health services sector added 1,600 jobs in March 2019, a gain of 0.6 percent. Employment was up by 1,700 positions in the health care and social assistance subsector and down 100 positions in the educational services subsector. Since last March, the sector has jumped by 9,600 positions or 3.5 percent.

Employment increased by 600 jobs in the other services sector from February 2019 to March 2019. The other services sector includes repairs and maintenance, personal care services and religious organizations. Employment in this sector is up by 900 positions since March 2018.

The financial activities sector grew by 500 jobs from February 2019 to March 2019. This sector rose by 1,700 jobs or 1.8 percent compared to last March. The real estate, rental and leasing subsector added 400 positions, while the finance and insurance subsector expanded by 100 jobs.

Kentucky’s manufacturing sector gained 200 jobs or 0.1 percent from February 2019 to March 2019. Durable goods manufacturing added 600 jobs and non-durable manufacturing lost 400 jobs. Kentucky’s manufacturing employment is up by 2,600 jobs since March 2018.

Employment in Kentucky’s mining and logging sector increased by 200 jobs in March and is up by 700 positions from a year ago for a gain of 7.3 percent.

The government sector recorded 100 more jobs in March 2019 than in February 2019. The increase occurred in the state government sector, which added 100 positions. Federal and local government employment were unchanged in March. Total government employment has decreased by 1,600 jobs since March 2018.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector contracted by 2,300 jobs in March 2019. Since March 2018, employment in this sector has expanded by 1,700 positions or 0.4 percent. All three subsectors showed lower levels of employment in March 2019. Employment decreased by 200 jobs in wholesale trade; 500 jobs in retail trade; and 1,600 jobs in transportation, warehousing and utilities.

Construction employment declined by 1,200 jobs in March or 1.5 percent. The construction sector is up 1,900 jobs during the past 12 months for a gain of 2.4 percent.

“Kentucky’s construction sector showed relatively strong employment growth from December through February, but pulled back in March,” said Clark. “The gains suggest that construction firms expanded their payrolls to meet growing demand for their services. March’s decrease may simply reflect firms adjusting their employment level as they get a better sense of how much demand has changed.”

Professional and business services sector lost 500 jobs in March 2019 or 0.2 percent. This sector is down 1,600 jobs since March 2018. Most of the decline was in the administrative and support and waste management subsector which decreased by 400 positions in March.

Kentucky’s leisure and hospitality sector fell by 500 jobs from February 2019 to March 2019, a decrease of 0.3 percent. This sector is up 1,400 positions since March 2018. The accommodations and food services subsector added 700 jobs, and the arts, entertainment and recreation subsector lost 1,200 positions in March.

Employment in information services was unchanged in March 2019. Employment in this sector is up 100 jobs since March 2018. The industries in this sector include traditional publishing as well as software publishing; motion pictures and broadcasting; and telecommunications.

Civilian labor force statistics include nonmilitary 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.

Kentucky’s statewide unemployment rate and employment levels are seasonally adjusted. Employment statistics undergo sharp fluctuations due to seasonal events, such as weather changes, harvests, holidays and school openings and closings. Seasonal adjustments eliminate these influences and make it easier to observe statistical trends. However, because of the small sample size, county unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.

Learn more about Kentucky labor market information at