Kentucky's unemployment rate fell further in December, ending 2011 at 9.1 percent. The rate, which was down from 9.4 percent in November, was the state's best since 8.5 percent in December 2008.
However, the state's measure continued to lag the national rate, which was down to 8.5 percent from 8.7 percent in November.
The state added jobs for the third straight month, according to a statement from the state Office of Employment and Training. This time, the number of jobs increased by 8,400, as seven of the major economic sectors increased employment while four reduced employment.
The highest growth came in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which added 3,400 jobs during the month. Economist Manoj Shanker of the state Office of Employment and Training attributed the growth to added jobs at distribution centers during the holiday season.
The state's leisure and hospitality sector increased by 2,700 jobs, and the professional and business services sector grew by 1,200 positions.
The manufacturing sector added 1,100 jobs, and Shanker said in a statement that the expansion was "being fueled largely by exports from Kentucky."
Also adding positions were the government sector, 1,000; construction, 600; and information, 100.
Leading the losses in the state was the educational and health services sector, which shed 1,000 jobs.
Shanker called the drop surprising and said a preliminary look suggested "nursing and residential care facilities may have reduced jobs in the short run."
The mining and logging sector saw employment fall by 300, while the other services sector, which includes repair businesses and religious organizations, shed 200 positions. The financial activities sector also had 200 fewer jobs.