A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

State’s annual unemployment rate in ’21 was 4.7%, down from 6.4% in ’20; economy improved markedly

Kentucky’s annual unemployment rate for 2021 was 4.7%, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics, an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, down from 6.4% in 2020.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ estimate of the number of employed Kentuckians for 2021 was 1,941,737. This figure was up 54,738 from the 1,886,999 employed in 2020.

The number of unemployed Kentuckians for 2021 was 95,205, down 34,598 or 26.7% from the 129,803 unemployed in 2020. There were also 98,127 fewer people unemployed, 50.8% fewer than ten years ago.

In 2021, the estimated number of Kentuckians in the civilian labor force was 2,036,942. This was up 20,140 from the 2,016,802 recorded in 2020, but down 24,558 from 10 years ago, when the civilian labor force was 2,061,500.

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.

Kentucky was one of 49 states that experienced a statistically significant decrease in their annual unemployment rates over the past year. Maine was about the same as in 2020.

The unemployment rate in Kentucky for 2021 was higher than 24 states and lower than 25 states. California had the highest unemployment rate in 2021 at 7.3%, while Nebraska had the lowest, at 2.5%. Among its surrounding states, Kentucky’s unemployment rate was lower than Illinois, Ohio and West Virginia and higher than Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia.

“The annual labor force estimates show that Kentucky’s economy improved significantly from 2020 to 2021,” said University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research Director Mike Clark. “However, because the annual estimates are averages for the year, they tend to mask the improvements that occurred throughout 2021. For example, from December 2020 to December 2021, the number of people unemployed was down 4.1%; the number employed was up 2.2%, and the number in the labor force was up 1.9%.”

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