Kentucky's jobless rate held at 7.9 percent in February

ssloan@herald-leader.comMarch 21, 2013 

LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

Kentucky's unemployment rate remained at a four-year low of 7.9 percent in February.

January marked the first time the measure had fallen below 8 percent since November 2008, according to the state Office of Employment and Training.

But the state's performance lagged the national unemployment rate, which fell to 7.7 percent in February from 7.9 percent in January.

Kentucky's unemployment rate stayed the same because there was only a slight decline in the civilian labor force, which includes those who are employed and the unemployed who have recently looked for jobs. That decline came both because slightly fewer people were employed and because fewer people were looking for work.

"There's decreased demand for less-skilled workers," said Manoj Shanker, economist with the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training. "The jobs of today and tomorrow are going to require more skills, and people are getting sidelined unless they acquire those skills."

A second survey, however, showed employment growth in the state in February. That survey, which measures employment by industry, excluding agricultural work and self-employment, suggested that the state added 6,800 jobs in February with growth in six sectors and declines in five others.

"Our non-farm job levels have now reached a post-recession recovery high point," Shanker said. "We have made considerably more progress than the average state in gaining back lost jobs from the Great Recession."

Leading the growth was the manufacturing sector, which added 3,100 jobs. Most of those were in the sub-sector that produces automobiles, machinery, electrical equipment and appliances.

"Though there is less disposable income from the expiration of the 2 percent payroll tax cut, consumers are spending money on cars and keeping the assembly lines humming," Shanker said in his report.

Employment in the state's leisure and hospitality sector increased by 2,300 jobs in February, as hotels and restaurants have seen steady growth.

"However, 10 percent of the jobs in this category are in the arts and entertainment field, and that has been far from steady," Shanker said.

Other sectors adding jobs were educational and health services (1,200); construction (900); trade, transportation and utilities (800); and government (700).

The largest declines in February came in the information sector, which shed 1,000 positions. The sector includes traditional publishing, software, films, broadcasting and telecommunications.

"The outlook for employment in both the print and online media is unpromising, at least in the short run," Shanker said.

Jobs in the financial-activities sector declined by 600, and the mining and logging sector saw employment fall by 300 positions.

The professional and business-services sector shed 200 jobs, and employment in the "other services" sector, which includes repair companies and religious organizations, fell by 100 positions.

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz.

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