Kentucky reports lowest unemployment rate in state history. Economy ‘on fire,’ gov. says

·3 min read
Ryan C. Hermens/rhermens@herald-leader.com

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday that Kentucky posted its lowest unemployment rate in recorded history.

The Kentucky Center for Statistics within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet reported a seasonally adjusted preliminary unemployment rate of 3.9% for April 2022. According to Beshear, this is the lowest recorded percentage since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics first started reporting in 1976.

“This fantastic news is further proof that the commonwealth’s record-breaking economic momentum is benefiting all Kentuckians,” Beshear said. “Kentucky’s economy is absolutely on fire.”

Kentucky vs. National Unemployment Rates

This latest statistic is relatively close to national trends — the 2022 national average unemployment rate is 3.6% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, Kentucky’s unemployment rates have fluctuated above and below the national average in the past, exacerbated by the pandemic.

In 2019, Kentucky reported rates steadily around 4.1%, and this continued into early 2020. This was slightly higher than national trends, with BLS reporting average rates around 3.8%.

As 2020 progressed and the pandemic was in full swing, Kentucky unemployment reached its peak in April and May 2020, with rates of 16.5% and 12.6%, respectively. National rates were also high at 14.7% and 13.2% for April and May 2020.

The rest of 2020 saw Kentucky trend around 5% unemployment with a spike to 5.7% in July. National reports were consistently higher with rates ranging from 11% in June to 6.7% in December.

Kentucky unemployment rates in 2021 stayed near 4.7%, not exceeding 4.8% as the commonwealth began resembling life pre-COVID. According to BLS, national rates ranged from 6.4% in January to 3.9% in December 2021, reporting numbers both higher and lower than Kentucky trends.

Thus far in 2022, Kentucky has reported rates of 4.4% in January, 4.2% in February, 4.0% in March and now 3.9% in April. Nationally, rates have included 4.0% in January, 3.8% in February and 3.6% for March and April 2022.

Other Economic Developments

Beshear’s announcement comes a week after the governor announced the “best ever” monthly General Fund receipt at $1.84 billion. According to the Governor’s office, this report is 34.9% higher than April’s receipt and brings the total growth rate for this year to 16.4%.

Beshear mentioned other examples of economic progress, including $17 billion devoted to private-sector investment and the creation of more than 33,000 new jobs across the commonwealth.

Kentucky also came sixth in Site Selection magazine’s Prosperity Cup, which ranks all 50 states in terms of state-level economic development — an achievement that Beshear said points to a “positive building” of the commonwealth’s reputation.

“We’re proving that Kentucky is no longer a flyover state. We are the destination,” Beshear said.

A Mixed Response

The Governor’s announcement was met with mixed reviews from both Republicans and Democrats.

Following the unemployment report, the Kentucky Republican Party released a statement pointing to ongoing economic issues which are currently affecting much of the country. Sean Southard, a spokesman for the Kentucky Republican Party, pointed to national economic issues like a baby formula shortage, rising gas costs predicted for the summer and a 10% decrease in the Dow.

“Andy Beshear is right about one thing: the Biden-Beshear economy is definitely on fire,” Southard said. “Our labor force has 20,000 fewer people today than when Andy Beshear was elected. We’ve gotten national headlines for being a leader in people quitting their jobs.”

In a statement from the Kentucky Democratic Party, Chair Colmon Elridge praised the governor’s announcement, saying Beshear “is the best jobs governor in Kentucky history.”

“Even while guiding Kentucky through two incredibly difficult years with deadly storms and the pandemic, Gov. Beshear has led the commonwealth into the greatest economic boom in our history, creating good-paying jobs in every corner of the commonwealth,” Elridge said.

“There is no doubt that Kentucky is moving in the right direction and the policies, vision, and leadership of Gov. Beshear is leading the way.”

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