File-Kentucky Unemployment

Wilbert Woodward fills out an application for United Parcel Service during a job fair sponsored by the National Urban League in Louisville, Kentucky.

(The Center Square) According to state officials, Kentucky reported a historically low unemployment rate for 2022.

The Kentucky Center for Statistics announced the statewide rate for the year was 3.9%. That’s the lowest annual rate determined for Kentucky since the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics started tracking state rates 47 years ago.

The state’s labor force was estimated to exceed 2 million, according to federal data, and slightly less than 80,000 of those people were unemployed.

While the rate dropped by a half-percentage point from 2021, KYSTATS announced Kentucky’s annual rate was still higher than 33 other states. That includes neighboring states like Indiana and Tennessee.

In addition, Mike Clark, the University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research director, said that while the state’s economy grew stronger last year, it wasn’t necessarily consistent.

“The gains in labor force occurred early in the year, and monthly estimates suggest the labor force declined somewhat by the end of 2022,” Clark said.

Conversely, he added the state’s manufacturing sector saw declines early last year but improved over the final five months. In all, manufacturing businesses added 9,300 jobs last year.

The unemployment data release came on the same day Gov. Andy Beshear announced a new public-private partnership to grow the state’s manufacturing sector. The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers unveiled CONNEX Kentucky, an online portal connecting the state’s businesses with 140,000 manufacturers nationwide.

CONNEX Kentucky allows large manufacturers to post solicitations and look for suppliers, while smaller companies can find those requests for proposals and identify potential new partners and clients.

“Thanks to this important new partnership… Kentucky’s manufacturers and countless other companies will, starting today, have access to one of the best tools in the marketplace to help grow their revenue, strengthen their supply chains and enhance the job security of their employees,” KAM President and CEO Frank Jemley said.

Jobwise, the biggest gains came in the leisure and hospitality sector. Clark pointed out the 13,700 new jobs created last year indicate that industry is close to returning to its pre-pandemic staffing levels. Most of those jobs, 11,500, came from lodging and dining establishments.

Kentucky’s trade, transportation and utilities sector, the state’s largest private sector based on the number of jobs, added 12,600 positions last year. Those companies account for more than 1-in-5 nonfarm jobs in the state.

Beshear said the unemployment report was just the latest indicator the state is becoming “an economic powerhouse,” adding the state has had unprecedented economic development success over the past two years.

“With the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history, we know more Kentuckians are chasing their dreams and providing for their families right here at home,” he said.