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State jobless rate up to 10.9 percent in February

Kentucky's unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage points in February to 10.9 percent, reflecting the state's continued economic struggles, according to a state labor market analyst.

The rise came as non-farm employment dropped to its lowest level since April 1998, said Justine Detzel, chief labor market analyst for the state Office of Employment and Training.

The rate is the highest since September 1983, when it was 11.1 percent.

The rate also was affected by more people starting to look for jobs, she said. Unemployment statistics do not count people as unemployed unless they have been actively seeking work in recent weeks. Because of that, when people start to look for work again, the unemployment rate rises.

Kentucky's unemployment rate rose to more than 10 percent in May and has stayed there. It was 9.6 percent a year ago. The state's rate also continued to stay higher than the nation's, which was 9.7 percent in February.

Three of the 11 major industries that are tracked showed employment increases during the month, while seven decreased and one remained the same.

Overall, the state lost 7,500 jobs in the month. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the state has lost 122,600 jobs, Detzel said.

The biggest increase — 1,900 jobs — came in the educational and health services sector, up 3,900 jobs compared to February 2009.

Another area with job growth was the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 1,000 jobs.

The sector that saw steady employment was mining and logging.

The largest monthly losses came in the manufacturing sector, which lost 3,800 jobs.

"This ends a string of three consecutive months of industrial employment growth," Detzel said, noting the losses reflected a temporary shutdown at a plant and a few plant closings.

Also down were the government sector, which lost 2,400 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities, 2,300 jobs; professional and business services, 800 jobs; construction, 700; financial activities, 400; and the information sector, 100.

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