Slight fall in Kentucky's unemployment misses coal counties

Kentucky's unemployment rate fell slightly in November to 7.7 percent, compared to 8 percent in October, according to data released Thursday by the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training. The national unemployment rate for November was 6.6 percent.

However, the statewide jobless rate was worse than the 7.4 percent seen a year ago in November 2012, the agency said. Over the past year, unemployment rates rose in 96 of Kentucky's counties, fell in 16 and stayed the same in eight.

In November, Woodford County had the lowest jobless rate at 5.9 percent. It was followed by Daviess and Fayette counties at 6.1 percent each; Scott County at 6.2 percent; Boone County at 6.3 percent; Caldwell, Oldham and Warren counties at 6.4 percent each; and Jessamine, Madison, Ohio, Shelby, Simpson, Spencer and Union counties at 6.5 percent each.

The Eastern Kentucky coal fields, plagued for the last two years by mine closures and layoffs, dominated the lowest-performing counties.

Leslie County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 16.4 percent. It was followed by Magoffin County at 15.8 percent; Harlan County at 15.6 percent; Letcher County at 15 percent; Knott County at 14 percent; Bell and McCreary counties at 13.6 percent each; Jackson and Perry counties at 12.8 percent each; and Clay County at 12.2 percent.

Those official numbers only reveal part of the problem because they include only people in the labor force actively looking for work.

In Leslie County, for example, 62.4 percent of adults are not counted as part of the labor force by the U.S. Census Bureau, in some cases because they've been unemployed for so long.

By comparison, in Woodford County, only 32.1 percent of adults are not counted in the labor force.