New Report Shows Job Growth Lagging in Rural Kentucky

Aug 29, 2018

A worker operates machinery at Trace Die Cast.
Credit Becca Schimmel

Although jobs in Kentucky are growing, they still haven’t returned to pre-recession levels. The 2018 State of Working Kentucky report from the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows the state would need 60,000 more jobs to return to the pre-recession economy of 2000.

According to the report, wages have remained stagnant across multiple sectors and public investment in schools, payments to hospitals and public safety are playing a big role in where major employers locate.

The Executive Director of KCEP, Jason Bailey, said for Kentucky to have a truly recovered economy more jobs are needed in rural areas and wages have to grow to provide a higher standard of living. He said the oft-repeated idea that there's a skills gap preventing employers from finding the right workers doesn’t add up.

“There are a lot of anecdotal claims about workers or employers not finding the skills they need but the reality is if that was truly happening economy wide you would see wages going up,” he said.  

Bailey said if skilled workers were in scarce supply, employers would be paying more for workers who had those skills. He said job availability also varies across Kentucky and the gap between urban and rural areas is growing.

Credit Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

“In the recovery over the last year all the job growth has been in metro Kentucky. Rural Kentucky has added no net new jobs, in fact since the 1990’s,” he said.  

Bailey said rural areas in the commonwealth have lost jobs in the public sector, agriculture and some in manufacturing. The report shows the sectors that have seen the most job growth since 2010 are  warehousing and storage as well as motor vehicle manufacturing.