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Kentucky’s unemployment rate ticked up last month

Samantha Morrill

While the Commonwealth's unemployment rate appears to have increased in August, some officials report it is not necessarily bad news. The Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS) released their preliminary report on the state’s August unemployment rates last week.

Dustin Pugel is the Policy Director at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. He said the Commonwealth’s unemployment rate is currently sitting at four percent, a rate that’s unchanged from this time last year. However, the rate has ticked up slightly from July.

“Essentially, what that’s a product of is more folks entering into the workforce looking for work who hadn’t previously been working yet. So, the unemployment rate is simply the percent of the workforce who are not currently on the job but are looking for a job anytime in the last four weeks,” he said. “On the whole, that’s a good thing.”

Pugel said having an unemployment rate that’s increased doesn’t mean people have lost jobs. In fact, he said Kentucky is currently experiencing a tight labor market.

“Right now, we have more openings than we have folks who are out there looking for work. Generally speaking, you want that,” Pugel said. “One of the goals of federal policy is to make sure that we have what’s called full employment, and all kinds of good things happen when you have full employment. People are able to seek out jobs that better fit their skills and passions. Workers can push for higher wages.”

Pugel said there are many reasons someone may not be able to find work right now, even with the increase in job openings.

“Primarily, they are not well themselves. They are caring for a loved one, either a child where they can’t find affordable or adequate childcare, or a disabled or elderly loved one,” he said. “And then there are folks who have just sort of been pushed out of the labor force because their industry has dried up. I think what we’re seeing some of those issues starting to settle out now.”

There are two different surveys that go into forming KYSTATS’ monthly report, which Pugel said can cause some confusion.

“The employer survey showed there was an increase in jobs, whereas the household survey showed that there was a reduction in jobs. The main difference is the employer survey doesn’t include agricultural work or people who are self-employed,” he said. “So, we actually have a higher number of jobs now on the employer survey than we’ve ever had before.”

Rowan County’s preliminary unemployment rate for August sits at just over five percent.

The full report can be found online.