By Jordan Harris
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Every month the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases area specific wage and employment data for metro areas. Kentucky is in a unique position for a few reasons.
A) There are nine different metro areas that have at least one Kentucky county in them, but only five are based in Kentucky. Those five, in order of size, are Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Owensboro, and Elizabethtown. Four more regions, Cincinnati, Evansville, Ind., Huntington, W.Va. and Clarksville, Tenn., all have portions of Kentucky in them despite being rooted in other states.
B) Because of Kentucky’s significantly large rural population, the metro data can not be relied on for a full understanding of the state’s economy. It does, however, provide important metrics and a snapshot for the areas responsible for most of the states economic activity.
Pegasus Institute conducted an analysis to see how some of the regions looked in the most recently available data, released in June 2019 showing data for April of 2019.
The most impressive data point might be Fayette County’s unemployment rate, which is, incredibly, below 3 percent, with a year over year drop from 3.1 percent in April 2018 to 2.9 percent in April 2019. The entire Lexington Metro has an unemployment rate of 3.0 percent also down 0.2 percent year over year. The statewide unemployment rate was 4.0 percent in April, meaning that the entire Lexington Metro is a full point below the state average.
Clark County experienced a major year over year decline, moving from 4.0 percent unemployment in April 2018 to 3.5 percent in April 2019. The entire district is not just below the state unemployment average, but many counties in the region are below the national average.
The Louisville Metro area, while still below the state average, is not in an equally strong position. Jefferson County, the most populous county in the metro area, actually experienced a year over year increase in unemployment percentage, going from 3.7 percent to 3.8 percent. The county’s unemployment rate was notably above the regional rate of 3.5 percent and is well above the national rate of 3.3 percent.
The Louisville area has held pat year over year at 3.5 percent as a region, largely thanks to strong numbers from the Indiana counties counted in the Metro. Clark County, Indiana maintained its 3.0 percent unemployment rate while Floyd County, Indiana fell from 2.9 percent to 2.8 percent.
The unemployment rate in the Bowling Green Metro area decreased marginally thanks to declines in three of the four metro area counties. Warren County, the most populous, moved from 3.4 percent to 3.3 percent, matching the national average. Edmonson County experienced the steepest year over year decline in the region, moving from 4.8 percent to 4.2 percent, drawing the average close to the overall state average. Butler County likewise experienced a strong decline moving from 4.5 percent to 4.1 percent, it too nearly matching the state average. Only Allen County had an increase up from 3.4 percent to 3.7 percent, still comfortably below the state average.
Other notable changes
• The Owensboro Metro Area experienced a year over year decline in the unemployment rate from 3.8 percent to 3.5 percent but has also experienced a small decline in the overall workforce. This has occurred even as the states overall workforce has grown.
• Worthy of celebration, there are fewer people unemployed in the Owensboro Metro than any point in the last 10 years.
• The Elizabethtown Metro Area has a small year over year decline from 3.9 percent to 3.7 percent but more importantly, has matched its lowest recorded unemployment rate in the last decade.
• Kenton County, which is part of the Cincinnati Metro region declined from 3.3 percent to 3.1 year over year.
• Boyd County, which is part of the Huntington Metro region declined from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent year over year. The Huntington region as a whole declined by a full percentage point, a positive sign for northeastern Kentucky counties.