The Beshear administration announced this morning that Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent in March — a drop of over 2 percent in the past year and the lowest rate since the summer of 2001.
The federal survey of 60,000 households shows that employment increased by 7,353 in March, while the number of unemployed decreased by 2,310. This marks the 23rd straight month in which the ranks of the unemployed has decreased in Kentucky, and the seventh consecutive month where employment has increased.
The number of unemployed has fallen by more than 120,000 in Kentucky since the height of the Great Recession in 2009. While employment fell steadily in 2014, that number has jolted upward by over 35,000 in the last three months alone.
Kentucky's unemployed has fallen from 225,000 to 100,000, and while the labor force fell by 75,000, it has rebounded in 2015 and has clawed back nearly a third of that number. All of this is a big deal as the campaign to succeed Beshear gets underway.
The question of whether Kentucky is facing dramatic job growth or job loss has been a major topic of discussion in this year’s gubernatorial campaign. Republican Hal Heiner began running a TV ad last month claiming Kentucky had lost 20,000 jobs over the last two years. His primary opponent James Comer went a step further, claiming Kentucky lost “nearly 50,000 jobs” over that same time period, though his campaign subsequently stopped stating that figure.
As Insider Louisville noted last month, while Heiner’s ad was correct if you only count the number of employed, it neglected to mention the full context of the falling number of unemployed and total labor force. Additionally — using Heiner’s preferred statistics for the “20,000 lost jobs” figure — if you update those figures for the last two years from this March, Kentucky has actually gained 7,671 jobs.
So Kentucky has a lower unemployment rate now than when Beshear took office, and there are fewer unemployed Kentuckians now too. The recovery is real in the Bluegrass State. Both Matt Bevin and Jim Comer will destroy that recovery if elected, guaranteed.
Jack Conway needs to win in November, period.