Kentucky had the highest unemployment change and the second-highest per capita unemployment filings among states for the week that ended October 30. The U.S. Department of Labor released weekly claims data on Thursday that outperformed economists’ predictions nationwide but suggested Kentucky’s labor market continues to struggle.
While national unemployment claim totals have trended downward since the summer and dropped for five consecutive weeks, Kentucky claims continue to outpace almost all other states. Last week, another 7,235 Kentuckians filed for regular unemployment benefits while 404 filed for pandemic unemployment assistance. The change from the previous week represented the highest jump in total claims among states.
The commonwealth’s unemployment rate has also trended downward since the 16.9% figure posted early in the pandemic in April 2020. The September rate of 4.3% almost matches pre-pandemic levels; however, the recent spike in initial unemployment claims may increase the state’s unemployment rate.
More than 100,000 people have exited the state’s labor force since the start of the pandemic, which serves to lower the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate calculation excludes people who are no longer employed nor seeking employment. The state’s unemployment rate would stand at nearly 9% using the pre-pandemic labor force figure.
The Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance executive director testified last week that the state still has not fully processed thousands of claims from 2020. Staffers continue to process the backlog while working to process new claims. The office is now reviewing proposals to create a new system to handle unemployment claims.
The Kentucky League of Cities Board of Directors voted this summer to support legislation during the 2022 Regular Session of the General Assembly that enhances economic development opportunities in cities and offers incentives that could help attract and expand jobs. Four out of five jobs within the commonwealth are in cities.