Beshear: Kentucky posts its lowest-ever unemployment rate
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky posted its lowest-ever unemployment rate in April, offering more proof of the state’s unprecedented economic momentum, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.
The state’s seasonally adjusted, preliminary jobless rate fell to 3.9% in April, the Democratic governor said. It’s the lowest rate ever recorded in the Bluegrass State since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting state rates in 1976, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics.
“Kentucky’s economy is absolutely on fire, and today’s report shows that continued success is benefiting Kentuckians all across the commonwealth,” Beshear said at a news conference.
The April jobless rate was down slightly from the 4% statewide rate in March 2022. It also reflects the state’s recovery from the economic depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, Kentucky’s unemployment rate surged to 16.5% amid virus-related shutdowns.
Kentucky manufacturers expanded their payrolls by 6,000 jobs in April, the monthly report showed. Employment also rose across many other sectors of the state’s economy.
Beshear was joined by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman for the milestone announcement Thursday. The governor has stressed his stewardship of the state’s economy as he heads into a tough reelection campaign next year in a state trending Republican. Several GOP candidates already have entered the governor’s race and more are expected to announce bids for the state’s top political job.
Beshear typically begins his weekly news conferences with the state’s latest economic development announcements, often inviting executives from new or expanding companies to give remarks.
Last year, Kentucky set economic development records with $11.2 billion in business investments and the creation of 18,000-plus full-time jobs. It’s also led to a prolonged surge in state tax collections. The state recently reported its highest-ever monthly collection of state General Fund receipts and it has stockpiled huge amounts in its budget reserves. The General Fund pays for most state services, including education and public safety.
Amid the upbeat news, the governor acknowledged the challenges caused by sharply rising consumer prices — a theme for Republicans campaigning in Kentucky and across the country.
“Inflation is making it tough for our families to meet basic needs,” Beshear said Thursday.
Following the governor’s announcement, the Kentucky Republican Party tried to link Beshear with President Joe Biden in a statement that focused on surging inflation.
“The economy is definitely on fire, and the Biden-Beshear agenda is responsible for putting a match to our wallets,” said state GOP spokesman Sean Southard.
The governor was asked about prospects for parts of eastern Kentucky struggling with chronically higher unemployment rates. He said the state’s overall strong economy needs to reach areas “too often left out” — including rural parts of eastern and western Kentucky and urban neighborhoods.
Republican state Rep. John Blanton said Thursday that it’s time his eastern Kentucky district and other Appalachian counties share in the economic gains occurring elsewhere in the state.
Many people in his region drive long distances each day to their workplaces, he said. Others are “living out of the suitcase” -- gone from home during the work week, returning home on weekends.
“I ask that we look at bringing some of that economic development into the east Kentucky region that is struggling since the downturn of the coal industry,” Blanton said in a phone interview after Beshear’s announcement. “People are wanting to work. They’re looking for jobs.”
The governor pointed to infrastructure improvements to help attract new businesses to struggling regions. In eastern Kentucky, ongoing work to widen the Mountain Parkway is expected to help job recruitment efforts.
“We have to be intentional as we move forward in showing sites in eastern Kentucky to these companies,” Beshear said. “But we are also seeing companies wanting to move towards a ready labor force as one of their most important considerations. Eastern Kentucky has an incredible workforce that is ready and that works hard. And we believe that there is going to be good news.”
Blanton stressed the need to have industrial parks with infrastructure already in place to attract companies. That’s been one of the governor’s priorities to expand economic development.
“We’ve got the workforce,” Blanton said. “We’re getting the infrastructure in place. Now let’s bring the companies in.”