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Challenges Persist for Many in Kentucky Labor Market

A new report shows Kentucky's workers have experienced post-recession wage growth, but the biggest employment growth has been in low-paying fields. (Greg Stotelmyer)
A new report shows Kentucky's workers have experienced post-recession wage growth, but the biggest employment growth has been in low-paying fields. (Greg Stotelmyer)
September 1, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. — There’s good news and bad news in Kentucky's post-recession job market, according to a new report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

On the upside, research indicated workers have experienced real wage growth, top to bottom, for the first time in 15 years. On the downside, job growth isn't keeping up with population growth, said Anna Baumann, policy analyst with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy and the report's main author.

"On the more concerning side of things, our unemployment rate doesn't count the workers who have been discouraged because they haven't been able to find jobs, and good jobs, and have left the labor force,” Baumann said.

The state's unemployment rate is now below pre-recession levels, but Baumann said Kentucky still has a long way to go to catch up with where it was in 2000, when the nation was near full employment.

According to the report, if the same share of working-age Kentuckians - ages 25 to 54 - were employed today, an additional 118,000 people would have jobs.

The report found the industry with the most growth since the economic recovery began was temporary or employment-service jobs.

"Those jobs don't pay well, and there's no job security for workers,” Baumann said. "With so many of the jobs that are being created not requiring a higher education and paying low wages, we need to be thinking about how to support those workers."

She saif that support includes raising the minimum wage.

The report also found the health of the job market varies widely by region. Baumann said almost all the growth has been between Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky - the area known as the "Golden Triangle."

"One bright spot is that we've had good growth in the manufacturing sector,” she said, "especially auto manufacturing, and we know those jobs pay pretty well."


Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY