County unemployment rate down to 3.6 percent

1 July 2021 - Karah Wilson (McLean County News)

As of May 2021, McLean County’s unemployment rate is 3.6%, 5% less than in May 2020, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics.

As of May, 141 residents were unemployed and 3,795 were employed. The unemployment rate in April 2021 was 3.5%.

According to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, non-farm employment was up 19,200 jobs from December 2020 to March 2021 but still down 4.9% from January 2020. Since January 2020, jobs in leisure and hospitality decreased the most with slightly fewer than 100,000 jobs in April 2020 and approximately 25,000 in March 2021.

“While all major indicators suggest the Commonwealth’s economy is healing, they also show that Kentucky’s economy is still operating below pre-pandemic levels,” according to the chamber.

Michael Clark, associated professor of economics and director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky, said unemployment rates may look lower, but that does not necessarily mean the economy has recovered.

“People who do not have a job and are actively looking are considered unemployed, but people who do not have a job and are not looking are considered to be out of the labor force,” Clark said. “ … A lot of people who might be classified as unemployed are not classified as unemployed so that might make the numbers look really low.”

Clark said the best measurement of unemployment numbers in McLean County is to look at the number of people employed.

“We are seeing a lot of jobs opening across the country and are trying to bring back workers and the story we are hearing about how it’s hard to bring back workers,” he said. “There are a number of factors in play here but it’s difficult to say how much each one plays into the shortage of workers.”

Lack of childcare, an increase of people retiring, concerns about health and unemployment benefits are a few of the factors Clark said could play into the lack of employees at businesses.

One local business that has been impacted by the county’s unemployment rate is Camron’s Foodliner in Sacramento and Livermore.

“Being in a smaller community means a smaller number of people to pull from,” said Camron Knott, owner of Camron’s Foodliner. “I’ve always had a mix of people to pull from, from kids ages 14 years old, kids ages 16 years old and people 50 years old and older.”

Knott said he has not had very many applications submitted from people ages 50 years old and older.

“In the past year, I’ve taken applications maybe three or four times,” he said. “I’ve had maybe two to three people who have been 50 and above turn in an application.”

Knott said the last time he requested applications he received a lot of feedback but also had a lot of 14- and 15-year-old students wanting to turn in an application, but it’s harder to hire students in that age range because of Child Labor Laws.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Knott said the employees he had at his stores “jumped at the opportunity” to work more hours.

“I had several students who were doing an online version of school or transitioned to a homeschooling platform,” he said. “I received more kids turning in applications.”

Knott said there were times he was worried about his business with employment numbers, but it never got to the point of considering closing the doors of the stores. He said he opened the Livermore store right before Thanksgiving 2020 and didn’t have enough time to get that store running before COVID-19 hit.

Knott said he is always accepting applications for both locations.