Kentucky jobless rate soars

Kentucky's unemployment rate is at its highest point in more than 20 years as the state announced Tuesday that the rate for December rose to 7.8 percent.

Kentucky's jobless rate, up from November's revised 7 percent, is the highest since May 1988, according to the Office of Employment and Training, an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet..

The preliminary December 2008 unemployment rate is 2.5 percentage points higher than that of December 2007 which was 5.3 percent.

The construction sector showed the biggest declines, with 5,500 fewer positions in December 2008. Since December 2007, employment in construction has plummeted by 10,600 positions.

"This is the sixth consecutive month of employment declines in construction, reflecting weakness in heavy and civil engineering, and specialty trade contractors. Debility in the housing market, financial difficulties halting construction projects and the closing of a residential construction firm contributed to the contraction in this sector," said Justine Detzel, chief labor market analyst for the OET.

The manufacturing sector lost 4,400 jobs in December 2008. Compared with December 2007, jobs in the sector were down by 15,900 in December 2008.

"The woes of the automobile industry are reverberating through Kentucky's economy," Detzel said.

The productions slowdowns at auto assembly plants in Kentucky and elsewhere are hurting parts suppliers.

This month JL French Automotive Castings Inc., an auto supplier in Glasgow, announced it would lay off 180 workers.

The professional and business services sector and the trade, transportation and utilities sectors also suffered significant job losses.

Unemployment statistics are based on estimates and are compiled to measure trends rather than to count people working.

The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate increased from 6.8 percent in November 2008 to 7.2 percent in December 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Numbers released Tuesday show rising unemployment spared no state last month, and 2009 is shaping up as another miserable year for workers from coast to coast.

Clobbered by problems at Detroit's auto companies, Michigan's unemployment rate soared to 10.6 percent in December. Rhode Island's jobless rate hit 10 percent, the highest on records dating back to 1976.

South Carolina and Indiana recorded the biggest gains from the previous month, the Labor Department said Tuesday. A common thread among these states has been manufacturing industry layoffs tied to consumers' shrinking appetite for cars, furniture and other goods.

"We won't see a light at the end of the tunnel until 2010," said Anthony Sabino, a professor of law and business at St. John's University.