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Kentucky has twice as many open jobs as unemployed workers

by Charles Aull, The Bottom Line

For all unemployed workers in Kentucky, there are roughly two open jobs, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Data from the state Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed Kentucky with 167,000 open jobs in August 2021. In this same month, other BLS data listed 85,000 Kentuckians as unemployed.

Kentucky’s job openings rate – the number of available jobs as a percentage of employment and open jobs – was 8.2 percent in August, the second-highest job openings rate in the nation. Nationwide, there were 10.4 million job openings in August and 8.3 million individuals unemployed (individuals without a job but actively looking for one).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

This new data suggests Kentucky has one of the tightest labor markets in the nation and underscores the difficulty employers are facing when it comes to finding workers.

The Kentucky Chamber Foundation recently highlighted the severity of Kentucky’s workforce challenges in a new report, “20 Years in the Making: Kentucky’s Workforce Crisis.” This report demonstrates that Kentucky’s workforce challenges have been building for at least two decades and have multiple root causes, including health issues, child care, post-secondary attainment rates, criminal records, and more.

“The high levels of job openings in Kentucky compared to the number of unemployed Kentuckians illustrates how serious the Commonwealth’s workforce challenges really are,” said the Chamber’s Senior Policy Analyst Charles Aull. “We’ve all seen the hiring signs, but now we have new data with which to quantify it. More needs to be done to increase worker availability in Kentucky.”

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, JOLTS, is produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and has provided data on job openings, quits, and hires at the national level for years. Today marked BLS’ first release of official state JOLTS data.

BLS had previously and temporarily produce experimental JOLTS data for states. This new data will provide an additional layer of important context for understanding labor market trends at the state level.

Other takeaways from state JOLTS data for Kentucky include:

  • Kentucky had a slightly higher hiring rate than the national average: 5.5 percent vs. 4.3 percent – meaning Kentucky employers were hiring at a higher rate than the national average.
  • Kentucky had the highest quit rate in the nation at 4.5 percent, which is higher than the national average of 2.9 percent, which itself was an all-time series high. 84,000 Kentuckians quit their jobs in August, up from 57,000 one year ago.
  • Kentucky had a slightly higher layoff and discharge rate than the national average: 1.1 percent vs. 0.9 percent.

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