Low Participation in Workforce a Challenge for Kentucky Businesses

Sep 12, 2018

Credit Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

Like states across the nation, Kentucky has a critical shortage of workers. The problem is even more severe in the Bluegrass State because the percentage of adults working in Kentucky is lower than the national average.

A new report, “A Citizens Guide to Kentucky’s Economy since the Recession,” shows Kentucky’s workforce participation rate is 55 percent. That compares to the national rate of 59 percent.

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson said Kentucky is thousands of workers behind the national average.

“That might sound like a small increment, but considering that we’re 45th or 47th in workforce participation, somewhere in that range and that means 130,000 to 165,000 people, it’s obviously of great concern to us.”

Adkisson said adults who are not working fall into a few major categories.

“So where are those people? We think there are three primary causes,” said Adkisson. “I would say incarceration, addiction and disability.”

He said industries across the state are struggling to fill vacant positions, so getting more people into the workforce is a priority. He said the solution includes finding better ways to deal with the opioid crisis, as well as reforms to the state corrections system that keeps too many people in jail for low-level, nonviolent offenses. He says it’s more cost-effective if these types of offenders have access to treatment instead of jail.

The former Owensboro mayor said combining treatment with training programs would allow those  nonviolent offenders to go back into the workforce and help grow the state’s economy. The state is also developing more training and apprenticeship programs.

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