FRANKFORT Historically, Kentucky recovers more slowly from a national recession than other states but the commonwealth seems to have turned a corner on the “great recession” of 2009.

For the third consecutive month, the unemployment rate declined in all 120 Kentucky counties, according to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Statewide, the unemployment rate stood at 5.3 percent at the end of October which is actually slightly better than the national rate of 5.5 percent.

But that doesn’t mean the news is entirely good, especially for those Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, calls “missing workers.”

The improvement is “not just because people are getting jobs but because the labor force is shrinking,” Bailey explained. “A significant factor is people are dropping out because they have become discouraged from finding work or young people never entering the labor market because of the lack of job opportunities.”

While the October rate represented a 0.5 percent drop from the previous month and indicated 4,305 more people had found work, there were actually 5,493 fewer people participating in the workplace than the month before.

The new jobs aren’t always as good as the old ones.

A KCEP analysis by Bailey ( indicates that Kentucky lost 20 percent of its manufacturing jobs (48,800) from December 2007 to February 2010. Four years later the state has regained only 27,600 of them.

While those are good jobs, Bailey said they often don’t pay the same wages or benefits as the old ones or that many associate with manufacturing jobs. Some manufacturers are introducing two-tiered salary structures, paying new employees less than those who’ve been on the job for years.

However, Bailey said job growth has picked up in the past six months — “and that’s good.” But he said it may be two to three years before Kentucky recovers all the jobs it lost in the recession.

The lowest county rate was recorded in Boone County in northern Kentucky, followed by Woodford County in central Kentucky at 4.2 percent. Madison County was among eight others with an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent.

Jackson County recorded highest unemployment rate — 11.7 percent. The eastern Kentucky region contains three other double-digit counties: Magoffin at 10.8; Letcher at 10.2; and Harlan at 10.1. Leslie County’s unemployment rate fell just below double-digits at 9.8 percent; Bell and Knott counties recorded rates of 8.8 percent followed by McCreary County at 8.7 percent.

Regionally, the lowest unemployment rates are in western Green River region and the Bluegrass area anchored by Lexington, each with an aggregate rate of 4.7 percent followed by the Barren River region at 4.8 percent.

In seven-county area Green River Area Development District around Owensboro and Henderson the lowest rates were in Daviess (4.4 percent) and Hancock (4.5) counties. The highest rate in the region was in Webster County at 4.9 percent.

In the Bluegrass region, Woodford County had the lowest rate at 4.2 percent followed by Fayette, Franklin, and Madison counties with rates of 4.4 percent. Nicholas County had the highest rate in the region at 7 percent.

The Barren River region extending from Allen, Simpson and Warren counties on the Tennessee Border to the Green River in Hart County had an aggregate rate of 4.8 percent. The region around Jefferson County showed an aggregate rate of 5.1 percent.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at

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