Numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday give the first glimpse of the effect of the latest economic recession on poverty rates and employment in Kentucky and across the nation.
"Across the nation, poverty has gone up to very high levels. Kentucky mirrors that trend," said Ron Crouch, director of research and statistics for the state Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.
Employment-population ratios, which measure the number of people in the workforce against the number of people in the state, have risen nearly 3 percentage points since 2005, according to numbers from the American Community Survey produced by the Census Bureau.
Unemployment has actually dropped across the state in recent months, but the unemployment number doesn't take into account long-term unemployed workers who aren't actively seeking jobs.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Poverty is up 1.3 percentage points in Kentucky from a year earlier, more than the national rate increase.
Kentucky has lost 16 percent of its manufacturing jobs and 22 percent of construction jobs in the recession, said Jason Bailey, research and policy director for the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.
"That's a place where traditionally many working families have been able to find jobs which pay well even with just a high school diploma," Bailey said.
That trend serves to increase the disparity between wealth and poverty, Crouch said. He said his recent research has shown that even in poor mountain counties, people who began the recession with good jobs have come through it better than people in other parts of the state.
If you have a job, you're better paid, but fewer people have jobs, Crouch said.
There is good news, Crouch said: Estimates of population shifts and the fact that Kentucky's housing market didn't take the blow others did show that the state is attracting new workers.
"We have made some investments; hopefully we'll see some long-term improvements," Crouch said.