State unemployment rate up slightly

21 September 2019 - Tom Latek

Figures released this week by the Kentucky Education and Workforce Cabinet showed an uptick in the state's unemployment rate in August.

According to the Kentucky Center for Statistics, August's jobless rate was 4.4%, up 0.1% from July, and the same as August 2018. Kentucky remains above the national average, which was 3.7%, unchanged from July 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky civilian labor force was 2,071,392 in August, an increase of 3,192 from July. The number of people employed in August was up by 985, while the number unemployed increased by 2,207.

In a separate federal survey of business establishments that excludes jobs in agriculture and people who are self-employed, Kentucky's seasonally adjusted non-farm employment decreased by 3,500 jobs in August 2019 compared to July 2019. Kentucky has added 19,400 jobs since August 2018, for a growth rate of 1.0%.

"Losses in durable goods manufacturing and professional business services contributed to lower non-farm payroll employment in August," said University of Kentucky's Center for Business and Economic Research Interim Director Mike Clark. "The household survey indicates that workers entered the labor force at a faster rate than they were finding jobs. This pushed August's unemployment rate up, even though more people worked in August than in July."

Kentucky's manufacturing sector declined by 1,700 jobs or 0.7% from July to August. The drop occurred mostly in durable goods manufacturing, which lost 2,300 jobs. Non-durable goods manufacturing added 600 from July to August, while Kentucky's manufacturing employment has expanded by 3,600 jobs since August 2018.

"The decrease in Kentucky's durable goods manufacturing subsector is consistent with concerns that current trade policy could be dampening manufacturing growth," said Clark. "However, it is too early to know whether this will persist or just be a temporary decrease."

Another big drop was seen in the professional and business services sector, a loss of 3,000 jobs or 1.4% in August. This sector is down 1,400 jobs since August 2018. The month-over-month losses occurred primarily in the administration and support and waste management subsector, which fell by 2,900 jobs in August. Employment in the professional, scientific and technical services subsector fell by 200 jobs. Management of companies was up 100 positions.

"The jobs losses in professional and business services accounted for a large share of the state's total employment decrease in August," said Clark. "However, while this sector often experiences monthly fluctuations, the overall trend has been fairly stable."