May employment much better than year ago, still below pandemic levels

17 June 2021 - Steve Rogers (WTVQ)

Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary May 2021 unemployment rate was 4.5%, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), an agency within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet (EWDC).

The preliminary May 2021 jobless rate was down 0.2 percentage points from April 2021 and down 6.4 percentage points from the 10.9% recorded for the state one year ago when the restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 limited certain business operations.

The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate for May 2021 was 5.8%, down from the 6.1% reported in April 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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

Kentucky’s civilian labor force was 1,988,165 in May 2021, a decrease of 1,931 individuals from April 2021. The number of people employed in May increased by 3,200 to 1,899,269 while the number unemployed decreased by 5,131 to 88,896.

“May showed a significant increase in the number of people employed in Kentucky,” said University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) Director Mike Clark, Ph.D. “However, Kentucky’s total labor force remains low as many workers have not yet returned to the labor market. This is contributing to the state’s low unemployment rate.”

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 increased by 5,100 jobs in May 2021 compared to April 2021. Kentucky’s nonfarm employment was up 173,200 jobs or 10.2% compared to May 2020.

“In total, Kentucky has recovered 69% of the jobs lost when the pandemic began,” said Clark. “However, the new jobs are often in different sectors and with different employers than the jobs that were lost.”

Nonfarm data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics program.

According to the survey, employment increased for six of Kentucky’s 11 major nonfarm North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) job sectors in May 2021 while three declined and two were unchanged. All of the eleven major sectors showed higher employment compared to one year ago.

Kentucky’s leisure and hospitality sector jumped 3,400 positions from April 2021 to May 2021, a gain of 2%. This sector was up 47,800 jobs or 39.2% compared to May 2020. The accommodations and food services subsector added 1,900 jobs from April to May and the arts, entertainment and recreation subsector added 1,500 positions.

“Leisure and hospitality employment rebounded in May as improved vaccination rates and easing restrictions have allowed consumers to return to restaurants and begin traveling again,” said Clark.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector increased by 2,000 positions from April 2021 to May 2021. Retail trade employment added 1,800 positions in May; wholesale trade added 300 positions; and transportation, warehousing and utilities fell by 100 jobs. Since May 2020, employment in this sector has increased by 29,500 jobs or 7.9%.

Employment at Kentucky’s manufacturers was up 1,600 jobs or 0.7% from April 2021 to May 2021. The durable goods subsector added 1,300 jobs in May 2021 and non-durable goods added 300 jobs. Kentucky’s manufacturing employment was up 34,900 positions or 16.7% since May 2020.

Kentucky’s educational and health services sector increased by 1,300 jobs in May 2021. The educational services subsector gained 600 positions and the health care and social assistance subsector added 700 jobs from April to May. Since last May, the sector has increased by 19,800 jobs or 7.7%.

The professional and business services sector rose by 500 jobs or 0.2% in May 2021. The administrative and support and waste management subsector lost 1,900 positions while the management of companies subsector added 100 positions. The professional, scientific and technical services subsector jumped by 2,300 positions. Employment in this sector was up 21,500 or 11.3% since May 2020.

The financial activities sector gained 200 positions in May 2021. All of the additional jobs occurred in the finance and insurance subsector. The real estate, rental and leasing subsector was unchanged from April 2021 to May 2021. The sector has expanded by 4,300 jobs or 4.8% from last May.

Employment in the other services sector was unchanged in May 2021 and up 8,400 positions since May 2020. The other services sector includes repairs and maintenance, personal care services and religious organizations.

The number of jobs in Kentucky’s mining and logging sector did not change from April 2021 to May 2021, but was up 200 jobs or 2.9% from a year ago.

Information services sector jobs fell by 100 from April to May. The industries in this sector include traditional publishing as well as software publishing; motion pictures and broadcasting; and telecommunications. Jobs in this sector were up 300 positions or 1.5% from a year ago.

Kentucky’s construction sector declined by 900 jobs in May 2021, a 1.1% decrease from April. The construction sector was up 4,400 positions or 5.9% from one year ago.

The government sector fell by 2,900 positions from April 2021 to May 2021. Federal government employment increased by 100 jobs; state government decreased by 3,500 jobs; and local government employment increased by 500 positions. Total government employment was up 2,100 positions or 0.7% compared to May 2020.

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, due to the small sample size, county unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.