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Kentucky Unemployment Rate Recovers to Pre-Pandemic Levels, but Number is Deceiving

Kentucky’s official unemployment rate is trending downward since swelling to more than 15 percent at the height of the coronavirus outbreak. 

June’s jobless rate was 4.3 percent, mirroring the rate recorded for the state one year ago.

Kentucky's current unemployment rate is also much lower than the national average of 11.1 percent. The number of Kentuckians employed in June increased by 28,536 while the number of unemployed decreased by 137,600.

Mike Clark, head of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said while the jobless rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels, it doesn’t indicate the state’s economy has returned to normal.

"To be unemployed, in the official definition, you have to be without work and searching for a job," Clark explained. "The reason the unemployment rate has gone down now is because a lot of the workers who lost their jobs have stopped looking for work, at least temporarily. When that happens, they’re no longer classified as unemployed.”

Employment did improve last month, but there were still about 158,000 fewer people employed than in February before the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Employment increased in June in all 11 non-farm job sectors, lead by the leisure and hospitality industry.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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