A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky’s jobless rate in 2017 is lowest for the state since 2000 — at 4.9 percent; decline in 46 states

Kentucky’s annual unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent in 2017 from 5.1 percent in 2016, while nonfarm employment gained 11,300 jobs, according to the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

It was the lowest annual jobless rate for the state since 2000 when the rate was 4.2 percent.


The U.S. annual unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent in 2017 from 4.9 percent in 2016.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ estimate of the number of employed Kentuckians for 2017 was 1,952,066. This figure is up 42,908 from the 1,909,158 employed in 2016.


The number of unemployed Kentuckians for 2017 was 100,302, down 2,819 from the 103,121 unemployed in 2016. There were 9,560 fewer individuals unemployed in 2017 than 10 years ago.


In 2017, the estimated number of Kentuckians in the civilian labor force was 2,052,368. This is up 40,089 from the 2,012,279 recorded in 2016, and up 20,286 from 10 years ago when the civilian labor force was 2,032,082.


“The increase in Kentucky’s labor force is the largest since 1997,” said University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) Director Chris Bollinger, Ph.D. “As the Commonwealth’s economy has improved over the past couple of years, discouraged workers who stopped looking for work have returned to the labor market. The number of people unemployed has declined, even as these individuals returned to labor market.”


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


Annual unemployment rates declined in 46 states from 2016 to 2017, while rates increased in Delaware, South Dakota and Alaska and was unchanged in Ohio.


Kentucky’s unemployment rate for 2017 was higher than 39 states, but lower than eight states. Kentucky’s 4.9 rate was tied with Arizona and Pennsylvania. Nationally, Hawaii had the lowest jobless rate in 2017 at 2.4 percent, while Alaska had the highest rate at 7.2 percent. Among its surrounding states, Kentucky’s unemployment rate was lower than Ohio, Illinois and West Virginia but higher than Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee and Indiana.


According to the annual employment data, Kentucky’s trade, transportation and utilities sector added 4,100 jobs or 1 percent in 2017. During the past 10 years, the number of jobs increased by 15,000 or 3.9 percent. This is Kentucky’s largest sector based on employment with a total of 401,700 jobs or one-fifth of Kentucky’s nonfarm employment. Within the sector, wholesale trade gained 800 jobs from 2016 to 2017, retail trade added 100 positions, and businesses in transportation, warehousing and utilities added 3,100 jobs.

Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet

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