Kentucky’s most recent unemployment statistics tell a misleading story. Although unemployment in the Bluegrass fell from 8.2 percent in November 2013 to 8.0 percent in December 2013, there lies a tale of two numbers.

“Kentucky’s labor market has been shrinking for the last six months. The labor force…is now at the same level as five years ago in December 2008,” Manoj Shanker, an economist at the Office of Employment and Training, stated in a release. “The decline is a combination of demographic changes, notably the retirement of baby boomers, and the ‘discouraged worker syndrome’ in which individuals leave the workforce because they don’t have the skills needed for the job market or are otherwise disenchanted.”

According to a press release from the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, the Kentucky workforce as of December 2013 was at 2,047,213, which is 11,634 less than November 2013. Out of the 11 industries other than farming, six are showing either no gain or a loss of workers. These failing industries include information, maintenance and religious organizations, government, finance, construction and manufacturing.

“My town [Paducah] is going through a hard time with unemployment. The United States Enrichment Corporation plant there is gradually shutting down and a lot of people are having to move away because of it,” says U of L freshman Chad Behbehani. According to USEC’s website, the plant in Paducah “is the only U.S.-owned and operated uranium enrichment facility in the United States.” It employed 800 workers, which now all must find new jobs.

Shanker provides reasoning to the widespread decrease in manufacturing: “Employment patterns have shifted so that manufacturing companies tend to favor outsourcing…this helps to keep costs under control and statistically moves jobs out of manufacturing and in to the business service sector.”

However, it is not all doom and gloom. There are some meager, but still promising employment numbers.

Important sectors, such as health and education; trade, transportation, utilities; and others posted gains in employment. As a whole, the amount of unemployed people decreased by 5,963 and in all of 2013, Kentucky’s non-farm employment rose by 6,100 jobs.

Although Kentucky seems to be decreasing unemployment, some sectors are losing jobs while other gain their losses. Kentucky still has quite a bit to go in order to match the nation’s 6.7 percent unemployment from December 2013. Kentucky has the 8th highest unemployment rate in the country.


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