For the first time in more than two years, Kentucky's unemployment rate fell below 10 percent. The measure dropped to 9.8 percent in May from 10 percent in April.
However, a different measure of the state's employment continued to show weakness: The state lost 6,000 non-farm jobs during the month.
The state's unemployment rate of 9.8 percent matched the rate in February 2009, the most recent time Kentucky's rate was below 10 percent. The state continued to lag behind the national rate, which was 9.1 percent in May, up from 9 percent in April.
The state's unemployment rate is calculated through a survey of households that counts the number of people employed and examines a broader employment base including agricultural workers, non-farm workers and the self-employed, said Justine Detzel, chief labor market analyst for the state Office of Employment and Training. She noted the state's civilian labor force grew from 2.118 million in the state in April to 2.12 million, showing there are more people either employed or seeking work.
A more narrow survey that looks only at non-farm jobs showed the 6,000 jobs lost in the state in May came from 10 of the 11 major economic sectors. The only sector to see growth was leisure and hospitality, which added 700 jobs linked to "numerous restaurants opening," Detzel said.
The most job losses, 1,300, came in the trade, transportation and utilities sector.
"As gas and food prices surge, consumers are struggling to make ends meet," Detzel said in a statement. "The retrenchment by consumers is negatively impacting retail trade establishments through a decline in discretionary spending."
The educational and health services sector shed 1,200 jobs, and manufacturing declined by 1,100 positions.
Some of the latter's job losses were linked to disruptions in supplies coming from Japan after the earthquake and tsunami there.
The professional and business services sector fell by 1,000 jobs, and the government sector lost 700 positions.
Other sectors losing jobs were financial activities (500), construction (400), other services (300), information (100), and mining and logging (100).