Ky. jobless rate increases to 8% in March

More people unsuccessfully began looking for work in March, slightly increasing Kentucky's unemployment rate to 8 percent.

It was a step back for the unemployment rate after two straight months at 7.9 percent. January and February marked the first time since November 2008 that the jobless rate had been below 8 percent.

The state's worsening rate came as the national unemployment rate decreased to 7.6 percent in March from 7.7 percent in February.

The state's unemployment rate rose because there was an increase in the civilian labor force, which includes those who are employed and the unemployed who have recently looked for jobs. The number of people employed rose slightly for the month under that study, but there was a larger increase in the number of unemployed people.

"A job opening may go unfilled because the person with the right skill set has not been found," Manoj Shanker, economist with the state Office of Employment and Training, said in a statement. "That causes small fluctuations in the unemployment rate, as we see in March."

A different survey showed a drop in employment in the state. That survey, which measures employment by industry, excludes agricultural work and self-employment. It suggested that the state lost 8,400 jobs in March, with growth coming in only one of the 11 economic sectors.

"The one-month decline in non-farm employment is surprising, but it is not a cause for concern," Shanker said. "We look at trends and not just a single month. We have had six months of robust growth in employment.

"In spite of the decline in March, the first quarter has seen a gain of 18,100 jobs."

The largest losses came in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which shed 2,200 jobs. The majority of those came in the retail trade subsector.

The leisure and hospitality sector saw employment fall by 1,800 positions, and the number of jobs in the professional and business services sector declined by 1,300.

The latter sector's job loss "has been almost entirely in temp services, while scientific and technical services have shown strong gains," Shanker said in his report. "The annual data indicates that people are moving from temporary jobs into more stable permanent jobs in manufacturing and technical services."

Other sectors seeing job losses were construction (1,100); other services, which includes repair companies and religious organizations (900); manufacturing (500), mining and logging (400), government (300), financial activities (300) and information (200).

The only sector with employment gains in March was educational and health services, which increased by 600 positions.