A new report shows Appalachian counties in Kentucky saw a decline in employment growth at the same time other states in Appalachia saw an increase. The region overall is shifting toward more job diversity, but still lags behind the rest of the country.
The report from the Appalachian Regional Commission looked at 15 different industry sectors from 2002 to 2017. It found that employment across those industries in Appalachia grew by just under 5 percent, but is still behind the country as a whole.
The largest employment shares in Appalachian parts of Kentucky are state and local government, health and social services, and retail.
“The earnings per employee in Appalachian Kentucky are indeed lower in comparison to the rest of Kentucky and the rest of the country as a whole,” said Wendy Wasserman, a spokesperson for ARC.
However, Wasserman said there are jobs in the state that are doing well, such as utilities and manufacturing. The report shows the majority of employment growth in Kentucky is happening in non-Appalachian counties.
She said it’s important to have a diversity of industries in Appalachia and the region as a whole is shifting towards professional and technical services, health and social services, and tourism-related jobs.
“We’re not a one-horse town and we’re not a one-horse region. There’s lots of different job opportunities and there’s lots of different industries that are blossoming in the region,” she said.
Wasserman said if the region isn’t as dependent on one sector for jobs, it softens the blow if that industry declines.
Appalachian Tennessee also saw growth in the utility sector, and wages for employees in the food, lodging and entertainment sector have seen growth of 15 percent.