Kentucky added 21,200 jobs in 2011, as the state continued to recover from the recession, officials announced Monday. For the year, the state's unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent in 2011 from 10.2 percent in 2010.
That continued to be worse than the nation's unemployment rate, though, which was 8.9 percent in 2011 and 9.6 percent in 2010.
Kentucky had the 12th-highest annual unemployment rate among the states and Washington, D.C., in 2011. The lowest rate was in North Dakota, where it was 3.5 percent. The highest was 13.5 percent in Nevada, which has been ravaged by real estate problems.
Kentucky was one of 19 states plus Washington that had jobless rates higher than the national average.
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However, the state's economy "clearly made strides in recovering from the recession," Manoj Shanker, an economist with the state Office of Employment and Training, said in a statement.
"All three components of Kentucky's labor force made significant shifts in the right direction: The civilian labor force expanded, employment went up and the number of unemployed declined by more than 13,000," Shanker said.
Jobs in the state, excluding agricultural jobs and the self-employed, totaled 1,791,600 in 2011. That's the highest since 2008, when that figure was 1,851,700.
Eight of the state's 11 major job sectors saw growth in the year, with the highest coming in professional and business services, which added 8,300 jobs in 2011.
"The job gains in support services are a good indicator of the strengthening economy," Shanker said. "As the recovery gains momentum, employment first strengthens in business support services and at temporary help agencies."
The educational and health services sector gained 4,400 jobs, driven primarily by health care-oriented employers such as hospitals, which added 3,500 of those positions.
For the first time in a decade, the state's manufacturing employment base expanded, increasing by 3,300 jobs, or 1.6 percent, in 2011. Over the past decade, the sector has seen employment shrink by 27 percent, or 79,200 jobs. Shanker wrote that most of the employment growth came from the automobile industry and electrical equipment manufacturing.
"Kentucky's manufacturing sector received a boost from the strong yen, which put many Japanese products out of reach for European economies," Shanker said. "This greatly improved the export demand for auto parts and electrical equipment made in the United States."
The trade, transportation and utilities sector increased by 3,700 jobs, while the state's leisure and hospitality sector added 2,200 positions.
Also seeing increases were other services, a sector that includes religious organizations and repair companies (800), mining and logging (500), and information (300).
Leading the sectors with job losses was financial activities, which shed 1,400 positions primarily from finance and insurance companies.
Behind it was the government sector, which saw the number of jobs fall by 800.
The construction industry saw employment fall by 200 positions. It marked the fourth year of job declines in the sector, which has been hurt by the housing crisis nationally.