KY Policy Blog

Don’t Trust the Unemployment Rate: Coal Counties Edition

By Jason Bailey
August 24, 2015

Kentucky is celebrating its drop in unemployment rate, which at 5.2 percent as of July is hovering at a level not seen since 2004.

But since the unemployment rate doesn’t count as unemployed those who aren’t currently seeking work, it overstates how good things are. This problem can be seen by looking at Kentucky’s coal counties, which have had among the state’s biggest declines in unemployment rates the last two years, even while facing a major economic crisis in the loss of coal jobs.

As seen in the table below, read more

Job Growth since Recession Continues, but Quality is Mixed

By Jason Bailey
August 10, 2015

After major job loss in the Great Recession, Kentucky’s economy has gradually improved and the state has added 141,000 jobs since June 2009. The pace of job growth has picked up over the last year, with the state adding more jobs since last June than any year since 1999.

When it comes to job quality, though, the story is more complicated with both good and bad news for Kentucky workers. Growth in industries like manufacturing and logistics suggest Kentucky is strengthening its role as a production state. But jobs in read more

Kentucky’s Lopsided Recovery

By Jason Bailey
April 30, 2015

Job growth in Kentucky has picked up over the last year, and every county saw a decline in its unemployment rate from March 2014 to March 2015. However, a closer look shows that the economic recovery is not spread evenly across the state, but is concentrated in a minority of counties in more prosperous parts of Kentucky.

Only 28 of the state’s 120 counties have more people employed in March 2015 than in March 2007, before the recession hit. As the map below shows, those counties where the growth in read more

Missing Workers Problem Dampens Drop in Unemployment Rate

By Jason Bailey
February 4, 2015

Kentucky’s economy has garnered headlines for the decline in the state’s unemployment rate, which fell sharply from 7.9 percent in December 2013 to just 5.7 percent in December 2014. However, that number overstates how good the job situation is in Kentucky because of who it leaves out.

It’s true that the state’s job growth has picked up over the last year. After averaging just about 1,400 new jobs a month in 2013, the state added around 2,700 new jobs a month in 2014.

But growth in jobs only partially explains read more

Manufacturing is Still Crucial to Kentucky’s Economy, Workers

By Anna Baumann
January 22, 2015

Despite steep job losses over the last two decades resulting largely from problematic trade policies and economic recession, manufacturing still plays a key role in Kentucky’s economy. A new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that Kentucky has the eighth highest share of employment in manufacturing among the states at 12.4 percent of total jobs, 3.6 percentage points higher than the national average.

Manufacturing is an even larger share of Kentucky’s economy, making up 18.3 percent of state gross domestic product (GDP), the seventh highest share among the read more

Trade Deficit with China Has Cost 41,100 Kentucky Jobs, Many in Manufacturing

By Anna Baumann
December 11, 2014

Kentucky has paid heavily for the U.S.’s growing trade deficit with China—41,100 fewer jobs between 2001 and 2013 according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Since China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, its use of currency manipulation and other policies have suppressed the relative price of Chinese goods, costing 3.2 million U. S. jobs and depressing workers’ wages.

Kentucky’s job losses from the widening trade deficit with China rank the state 17th hardest-hit in the nation, according to EPI. More than three out read more

Some Manufacturing Jobs Growing in Kentucky, but Not at Wages of Before

By Jason Bailey
November 26, 2014

The recession hit Kentucky manufacturing jobs hard, with the state losing 48,800 or nearly 20 percent of its manufacturing employment between December 2007 and February 2010. In the last four years we’ve seen a turnaround, with the state gaining back 27,600 or more than half of its lost factory jobs.

However, the new manufacturing jobs emerging out of the recession often aren’t as good as the jobs of old when it comes to wages, benefits and job security, as a new National Employment Law Project (NELP) report points out.

Some read more

Energy Future Contains Risks But Also Opportunities for Kentucky

By Jason Bailey
October 8, 2014

KCEP Director Jason Bailey made the following remarks on the panel “EPA’s Carbon Pollution Rules and Kentucky” at the 2014 Governor’s Conference on Energy and the Environment:

As we talk about this issue, it’s important for us to keep in mind that the energy context around us is changing in ways that are likely to be permanent. Kentucky is in a special position that creates certain vulnerabilities for us but also new opportunities. But those risks grow and those opportunities fade the longer we delay action. Our challenge is to read more

Don’t Pop the Champagne on a Job Recovery Just Yet

By Jason Bailey
September 19, 2014

To glance at the recent headlines on jobs in Kentucky, you’d think things are really looking up. The latest monthly unemployment rate dropped from 7.4 percent to 7.1 percent. A state economist said in a press release that “Kentucky has now regained 96 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession and we are on track for a full pre-recession recovery by the end of this year.”

Look into the numbers, though, and things aren’t so rosy. The unemployment rate went down not because jobs exploded, but because the read more

There’s Precedent for the Transition Assistance Eastern Kentucky Needs

By Jason Bailey
June 3, 2014

The new power plant rules proposed this week will make coal less competitive in the coming decades. It’s just one factor pointing toward continued decline in eastern Kentucky coal production, the main causes of which are the rising cost of Central Appalachian coal as the dwindling resource is harder to access and the drop in natural gas prices due to fracking.

Coal’s further decline in the region spells more economic trouble for eastern Kentucky. That’s on top of being one of the nation’s poorest regions even when coal was booming. read more