State unemployment rate mostly steady

Published 3:52 pm Friday, June 17, 2022

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Kentucky set a record-low unemployment rate in April, but it didn’t hold for long, as the May jobless figure was even lower, according to information released Thursday by the Kentucky Center for Statistics, an agency within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary May 2022 unemployment rate was 3.8%, down 0.1 percentage points from the 3.9% reported in April 2022 and down 0.9 percentage points from the 4.7% recorded for the state one year ago.

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The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate for May 2022 was 3.6%, which was unchanged from both March and April, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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 fell by 5,500 jobs in May 2022 compared to April 2022.  Kentucky’s nonfarm employment was up 48,100 jobs or 2.5% compared to May 2021.

Mike Clark, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research, explained the apparent contradiction.

“The household survey indicated that Kentucky’s unemployment rate fell to a new low of 3.8% as people found jobs at a faster rate than they entered the labor market,” he said. “However, despite strong growth in the professional and business services and health services, the survey of employers indicated that Kentucky’s total nonfarm employment fell in May.  Declines in durable goods manufacturing, retail trade and state government pulled total employment down for the month.”

Clark pointed out, “Employment in Kentucky’s professional and business services sector was up 5.9% over pre-pandemic levels and has shown particularly strong growth over the past few months. While some of this job growth likely comes from increased use of temporary employees, much of it appears to be coming from new jobs in the professional, scientific and technical services subsector, which includes jobs in areas such as computer system design, accounting and consulting services.”

Employment in Kentucky’s manufacturing sector lost 2,800 positions from April to May, a decline of 1.2%. Durable goods manufacturers lost 3,200 jobs in May, while non-durable goods manufacturers gained 400 jobs.  Kentucky’s manufacturing employment was down 2,400 positions or 1% since May 2021.

“Kentucky’s manufacturing employment continues to be volatile from month to month,” said Clark.

Overall, the state’s civilian labor force was 2,064,679 in May, up 1,830 from April. The number of people employed in May increased by 2,799 to 1,985,786 while the number of unemployed decreased by 969 to 78,893.