Education and Workforce Development Cabinet
Kentucky’s jobless rate drops to 5.2 percent in February 2015, continues below national rate for seventh month in a row

Press Release Date:  Thursday, March 19, 2015  
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 19, 2015) — Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary February 2015 unemployment rate plunged to 5.2 percent, the lowest rate since November 2004, and remained below the national rate, according to the Office of Employment and Training (OET), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. The state rate fell from the revised January 2015 rate of 5.5 percent and was 2.1 percentage points below the 7.3 percent recorded in February 2014.


The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 5.5 percent for February 2015 was a decrease from the January 2015 rate of 5.7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 


“February proved to be a record-setting month. Temperatures hit historical lows in much of Kentucky and the unemployment rate fell to a 10-year low of 5.2 percent,” said economist Manoj Shanker of the Office of Employment and Training. “We have had seven straight months where unemployment rates in Kentucky have been lower than the national average.”


Labor force statistics, including the unemployment rate, are based on estimates from the Current Population Survey of households. It is designed to measure trends rather than to count the actual number of people working. It includes jobs in agriculture and those classified as self-employed.


In February 2015, Kentucky’s civilian labor force was 1,987,617, an increase of 5,810 individuals compared to the previous month. Employment was up by 10,522, and the number of unemployed decreased by 4,712.


In a separate federal survey of business establishments that excludes jobs in agriculture and people who are self-employed, Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment increased by 1,400 jobs in February 2015 from the month before, and jumped by 43,000 positions since February 2014.


“Last year we added an average of 22,000 nonfarm jobs per month compared to the previous year. The first two months of 2015 have seen a doubling of that figure,” said Shanker. “We have to go back to March 2000 — during the overheated dot com economy — to see that type of growth.”


Nonfarm data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics program. According to this survey, seven of Kentucky’s 11 major nonfarm North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) job sectors registered gains in employment, while four declined from the previous month.



Kentucky’s professional and business services sector added 2,000 positions in February 2015 from a month ago. The sector has grown by 11,000 since last February. This category includes establishments engaged in services that support the day-to-day activities of other organizations, including temporary employment services and payroll processing.


“More than three-quarters of the year-over-year job gain was in administrative and support positions which grew by 8,500 or 7.4 percent,” said Shanker.


Employment in the educational and health services sector increased by 1,600 positions in February 2015, and gained 5,100 jobs over the year. Healthcare jobs, which account for nearly 90 percent of employment in this sector, had a month-to-month increase of 1,800 jobs in February 2015 and expanded by 4,500 positions over last year.


“Healthcare jobs have grown in response to expanded access to Medicaid services and now account for about 15 percent of all nonfarm employment in Kentucky,” said Shanker.


The construction sector gained 1,200 jobs in February 2015 from a month ago. Since February 2014, employment in construction has risen by 5,700 positions or 8.1 percent.   


“Residential construction is doing well, but the big boost to employment has come from heavy and civil engineering construction which includes highways and bridges,” said Shanker.


The state’s trade, transportation and utilities sector grew by 1,100 jobs in February 2015 compared to January 2015. From a year ago, employment has grown by 9,500 jobs. This is the largest sector in Kentucky with more than 380,000 jobs that account for one-fifth of all nonfarm jobs. Retail trade added 4,000 jobs over the year, while transportation and warehousing expanded by 5,400 positions. 


“The consumer economy is humming. Low unemployment rates translate into more money for consumer spending. But the surge in spending is from the strong dollar and low energy prices,” said Shanker.


The financial activities sector rose by 900 jobs in February 2015. The sector has gained 2,000 positions over the last 12 months.


The leisure and hospitality sector added 300 positions in February 2015. Since February 2014, this sector has grown by 6,600 jobs for an increase of 3.6 percent. This sector includes arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services.


Employment in the other services sector, which includes repairs and maintenance, personal care services, and religious organizations, was up by 100 in February 2015 from a month ago. This sector has remained flat from a year ago.


Mining and logging sector jobs dropped by 100 in February 2015. The industry has lost 800 jobs since last February.  


The information sector decreased by 300 jobs in February 2015. This segment has declined by 800 positions since February 2014. The industries in this sector include traditional publishing as well as software publishing; motion pictures and broadcasting; and telecommunications.


Employment in the government sector, which includes public education, public administration agencies and state-owned hospitals, dropped by 1,300 in February 2015, but gained 500 positions since last February.


The state’s manufacturing sector contracted by 4,100 jobs in February 2015. Since February 2014, employment in manufacturing has ballooned by 4,200 jobs.


“The sharp monthly swing in manufacturing from number one in job creation in January to dead last in February is not a worrying factor,” said Shanker. “The ‘smoothed’ over-the-year numbers shows steady growth in manufacturing employment. Over the last six months we have averaged 7,700 jobs per month from a year ago.”


Civilian labor force statistics include nonmilitary workers and unemployed Kentuckians who are actively seeking work. They do not include unemployed Kentuckians who have not looked for employment within the past four weeks.


Kentucky’s statewide unemployment rate and employment levels are seasonally adjusted. Employment statistics undergo sharp fluctuations due to seasonal events, such as weather changes, harvests, holidays and school openings and closings. Seasonal adjustments eliminate these influences and make it easier to observe statistical trends. However, because of the small sample size, county unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.


Learn more about Kentucky labor market information at