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Report: Kentucky employment above pre-recession levels for first time

Analysis shows Kentucky adding manufacturing jobs three times faster than nation

Frankfort, Ky. – Kentucky employment numbers are above pre-recession levels for the first time, according to a report released today by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

The report is based on an analysis of the recently released “Quarterly Census of Employment Wages” from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using commuting patterns and television market areas, the report breaks the state into nine economic regions and examines county-level jobs and wages data through 2014 since the last recession began in June 2009. (Click here to see the report)

economicregionsPaul Coomes, Ph.D., a senior consulting economist for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and emeritus professor of economics at the University of Louisville, compiled the analysis.

Since the last recession, Kentucky has added 128,425 jobs, a 7.5 percent rate in job growth, which is nearly identical to the national rate of 7.4 percent.

On a county-by-county basis, job growth was concentrated primarily in the most populated counties. Two counties – Jefferson and Fayette – accounted for 46 percent of job growth statewide; 10 counties accounted for 84 percent statewide. In mostly rural areas, 56 counties on net lost jobs.

In terms of percentages, Bullitt County experienced the greatest growth, expanding its job base by 40 percent (from 15,900 to 22,300 jobs) during the timeframe. The county’s success, Coomes says, comes from the transportation and distribution industry, spurred in part by the UPS’s presence at the Louisville airport.

“Along I-65 south of Louisville, there’s just a continuous flow of big distributions centers,” he said.

Carlisle, Webster, Madison, Marion, Taylor, Shelby, Hancock, Gallatin and Washington counties all tallied 20 percent or more growth rates. Trimble County fared the worst, losing 68 percent of its job base, however a large construction project in the area was completed during this time, greatly influencing this drop.

Considering wages and salaries, six of the nine regions grew by 20 percent or more. However, payrolls declined in the Mountain region by 10 percent. The analysis shows that the average pay per job continues to be an economic development challenge across Kentucky, with all except the Northern Kentucky region posting slower growth than the United States. Average pay in the Northern Kentucky region grew by 23 percent.

The report also includes in-depth analysis of growth in manufacturing jobs. The Louisville, Bowling Green-Hopkinsville and Northern Kentucky regions led the way in growth of manufacturing jobs, with Louisville seeing a 23 percent growth in manufacturing (compared to 10 percent growth of all industries). In terms of manufacturing job salaries and wages, the Northern Kentucky region saw a 56 percent pay increase for manufacturing jobs (compared to 32 percent for all industries).

As a whole, Kentucky in adding manufacturing jobs at three times the rate seen nationally, but the state is still 14,000 jobs below its peak in 2007.