One of America’s poorest states had the lowest unemployment rate in June, based on data from the State Employment and Unemployment Summary published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The jobless rate in Kentucky was only 4.3%. The median household income in the state is $50,247, which puts it 44th among all states by that measure.
The national unemployment rate in June was 11.1%, which is higher than the worst level in the Great Recession at 10% in October 2009. That year, some economists said the figure was among the greatest job calamities since the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Why is Kentucky’s rate at a level that would be considered strong in an economic recovery? Several parts of the Kentucky economy have not been hard hit, at least for now. The BLS pointed out that in June that “employment in leisure and hospitality rose sharply. Notable job gains also occurred in retail trade, education and health services, other services, manufacturing, and professional and business services.”
Jobs in education, manufacturing and health services make up Kentucky’s major employment components, which gives it an advantage over other states.
The job loss this year has been made up largely of low wage workers, often with poor educational attainment. In Kentucky, 24.8% of workers have a bachelor’s degree. The figure is 33.4% nationwide. The poverty rate is just 16.9%, compared to the national rate of 17.2%.
The jobless rate is also good in Kentucky’s largest cities. Between them, the Louisville-Jefferson County and Lexington-Fayette metropolitan statistical areas have 45% of Kentucky’s workforce.
Because of the makeup of Kentucky’s workforce, its jobless rate likely will remain below the national average.