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What The Drop in Unemployment Means--Or Doesn't Mean--For Kentucky

Becca Schimmel

A Kentucky economist said the state isn’t seeing the kind of employment growth it needs to make up for recession-era job losses.

The national unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point in May compared to April. Jason Bailey, with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said rural parts of the commonwealth are still struggling. He cited a loss in coal mining and manufacturing jobs over several years.

Bailey said the celebration of small improvements misrepresents the reality of Kentucky’s employment picture.

“You don't measure the strength of an economy by how many blue ribbon or ribbon cuttings you hold. You measure it by how many people are working. And so these numbers over time will be important to bringing some reality to what's actually going on,” Bailey said.

Bailey points to monthly employment reports that show job growth in Kentucky has remained virtually unchanged since January. He said the commonwealth isn’t seeing the robust or consistent job growth it needs.

Bailey said Governor Matt Bevin’s habit of saying the state’s recently-enacted right-to-work law is behind an explosion of jobs doesn’t represent the reality in the commonwealth.

Hear more: Will 'Right-To-Work' States Attract More Business?

“In fact if you look at the monthly job growth in Kentucky, there’s been no acceleration from what was happening before,” Bailey said.  

Right-to-work prohibits unions from being able to collect what are known as “fair share fees”. Those fees are imposed on non-union employees in exchange for the benefits of being in a unionized workplace. Kentucky’s right-to-work law was signed by Governor Bevin in January.

A state-specific jobs report for the month of May will be released later this month.

Becca Schimmel is a Becca Schimmel is a multimedia journalist with the Ohio Valley ReSource a collaborative of public radio stations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio. She's based out of the WKU Public Radio newsroom in Bowling Green.
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