Kentucky unemployment on the rise in October

20 November 2020 - Messenger Inquirer

Kentucky’s unemployment rate is on the rise. The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet’s Center for Statistics reported a 7.4% rate in October, up from 5.6% the prior month. 

Despite that jump, Mike Clark, the director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research, noted more Kentuckians reported working in October. The civilian workforce was nearly 2 million last month, up more than 62,000 from September. 

“Kentucky’s unemployment rate increased in spite of these employment gains because more Kentuckians also reported that they were without work and actively searching for a job… These estimates continue to be volatile from month to month,” Clark said. 

Some of those gains may be short lived. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Kentucky saw about 3,600 new jobs from September to October in the leisure and hospitality industry. That sector includes bars and restaurants, which made up about 2,400 of those new jobs. 

However, Gov. Andy Beshear ordered bars and restaurants to close their indoor services starting Friday because of rising COVID-19 numbers. 

On Thursday, Beshear opened his COVID briefing noting UPS was seeking to fill more than 1,000 jobs statewide and the global logistics company let him know bar and restaurant workers who lost jobs because of the mandated closure could find work there. 

Except for Tennessee, which also reported 7.4% unemployment, Kentucky’s neighboring states all reported lower unemployment rates. Missouri has the lowest rate, at 4.6%, tied with Minnesota for the ninth-lowest in the country.  

Indiana’s 5% rate ranked 13th nationally, while Virginia was right behind at 5.3%. Ohio’s 5.6% was good for 20th nationwide. In West Virginia, the rate was 6.4%, while Illinois came in at 6.8%. 

Nationwide, the national average dropped a full percentage point to 6.9%, according to BLS data. 

Kentucky and Tennessee were among four states who tied for the 11th-highest rate in the country. 

In addition to increasing from the previous month, October’s 7.4% rate also represented a 3.1% increase from the October 2019 rate. The state’s workforce, from year to year, fell by nearly 120,000 workers, and unemployment claims rose from 90,295 in October 2019 to 144,397 last month.