We continue to see some big moves in Frankfort.
Kentucky is officially a right-to-work state, meaning employees get a choice as to whether they would like to join a union or not. Before now, if you wanted to work for a company that had a union, you either joined the union or you didn’t work there. Proponents (*cough, cough* Republicans) are hopeful this makes Kentucky more appealing to new investment and businesses because unions typically drive up wages and other work related expenses. Governor Matt Bevin, Speaker Jeff Hover and Rep. Jim DeCesare pushed hard for this legislation along with the support of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Another big ticket item in Frankfort is the introduction of a bill on charter schools. House Bill 520 (HB520) provides a framework for integrating charter schools into the public school system. What are charter schools? Just like public schools, they don’t charge tuition and are open to all students, but when it comes to things like curriculum and class size, they play by their own rules. People on Team Charter Schools see them as an alternative that might better serve students’ individual needs. The opposing team fears charter schools will cut even further into the budgets for existing public schools resulting in a negative effect overall. This bill is just now getting to the State House and there are many, many lingering questions about how it will actually work, so we’ll be keeping our eyes open for developments.
After ‘seasonal adjustment,’ the unemployment rate in Kentucky was 5% in January. Why adjust for seasons? How many people do you think work at your local golf course in the middle of winter? Or think about how many employees are working at the mall around Christmas versus the summer. This seasonal adjustment smooths out those spikes. Five percent is not too shabby. Another interesting note for January was that the labor force increased by 17,754 people, and employment was up by 13,795. The number of unemployed increased by 3,959 but this still means a net increase. Some superstars were the construction sector, manufacturing, and the leisure and hospitality sector. On the decline for January, we saw education and health services, mining, and the government sector doing more firing than hiring.
Speaking of Kentucky business, exports rocked it in 2016. They grew 5.8% over the year to reach a new record of $29.24 billion in goods and services. Believe it or not, aerospace products lead the way with $10.85 billion in exports, a 24% growth from 2015. We were also really good at producing motor vehicles, rubber, fibers, and chemicals. Oh, and don’t forget bourbon and horses.
Also, be sure to keep a look out for our Kentucky basketball teams as they jump into March Madness tournament time! Good luck!
For more information on any of these topics, check out www.lanereport.com.
Jessica Casebolt, a former Miss Kentucky, is a correspondent for the The Lane Report. You can reach her at [email protected]