Kentucky unemployment rate rises to 5.5% in June

22 July 2021 - Dalton Godbey (WDRB)

The unemployment rate in Kentucky rose 1.6% in just 30 days last month.

The rate sat at 3.9% unemployed in May, and surged to 5.5% in the month of June.

"One of the things we're hearing from a lot of employers is that they have jobs and they're having a hard time finding people to fill those jobs," said Michael Clark, Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research for the University of Kentucky.

Experts believe the trend of rising unemployment numbers in 59 of Kentucky's counties is attributed to the amount of people still taking advantage of unemployment benefits.

As businesses begin to reopen, more jobs are on the market each month. With people remaining absent from the workforce, that reflects an increase in unemployment rates.

"We're seeing that employers are hiring more workers. Each month we've been seeing those numbers go up, which is a really good signal that the economy is recovering," Clark said. "However, what we're hearing from employers is we still have more jobs that we can't fill because we don't have workers."

In the month of June, the unemployment rate increased in all of the counties in the WDRB viewing area in Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics. 

In Louisville, the month of May saw an unemployment rate of 3.8%. A month later, it rose to 5.7% — a 1.9% increase in just 30 days.

"We're very optimistic about the trajectory that we're on, but obviously there's still a long way to go," said Rebecca Wood, COO of Greater Louisville Inc.

Across the state, and in Louisville, the issue is that more jobs are being added while people either remain out of the workforce, or continue to drop out for unemployment benefits.

GLI believes that could change in the fall.

"Those extra unemployment benefits are set to expire in September, so our hope is that will drive a lot of people back into the workforce at that time," Wood said.

While unemployment numbers fluctuate due to a number of post-pandemic factors, experts believe the trending job availability points to a return to normal.

"The increases that we're seeing from month-to-month are faster than we would see prior to the pandemic, and that's an indication that we are starting to come out of this hole," Clark said. 

The unemployment rate in Kentucky fell in 55 counties, and stayed the same in six counties, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics.