Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary unemployment rate for March 2016 fell to 5.6 percent from a revised 5.8 percent in February 2016, according to the Office of Employment and Training (OET), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.
The preliminary March 2016 jobless rate was 0.3 percentage points above the 5.3 percent rate recorded for the state in March 2015.
The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate for March 2016 was 5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Labor force statistics, including the unemployment rate, are based on estimates from the Current Population Survey of households. It is designed to measure trends rather than to count the actual number of people working. It includes jobs in agriculture and those classified as self-employed.
In March 2016, Kentucky’s civilian labor force was 1,981,611, an increase of 5,804 individuals compared to the previous month. Employment was up by 9,165, and the number of unemployed decreased by 3,361.
“March seems to be the harbinger of good news. All the statistics have moved in the right direction: the labor force expanded, overall employment increased, the number of unemployed decreased, and labor force participation increased,” said economist Manoj Shanker of the OET. “It’s too early to celebrate, but the tide seems to have turned.”
In a separate federal survey of business establishments that excludes jobs in agriculture and people who are self-employed, Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment increased by 3,700 jobs in March 2016 from the month before and rose by 36,900 positions since March 2015.
Nonfarm data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics program. According to this survey, six of Kentucky’s 11 major nonfarm North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) job sectors registered gains in employment, while four declined and one remained the same.
Kentucky’s trade, transportation, and utilities sector added 4,200 jobs in March 2016 from a month ago. This is the largest sector in Kentucky with more than 400,000 jobs accounting for one-fifth of all nonfarm employment. Since March 2015, this sector has expanded substantially with the gain of 16,600 jobs. Retail trade added 4,300 jobs over the previous month, while wholesale trade declined by 600 and transportation and warehousing gained 500 positions.
The state’s professional and business services grew by 2,700 positions in March 2016 from a month ago. Year-over-year, there was a substantial gain of 6,500 jobs. This category includes establishments engaged in services that support the day-to-day activities of other organizations, including temporary employment services and payroll processing.
“Robust growth in business services—especially from 1,400 additional jobs in temp services this month—is a key indicator of economic health. It does, however, send a mixed signal: the addition of new jobs is a positive, but temp jobs typically offer low-wages,” said Shanker.
The leisure and hospitality sector increased by 200 jobs in March 2016 from a month ago. Since March last year, the sector has added 4,700 jobs. This sector includes arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services.
Kentucky’s manufacturing sector went up by 200 jobs in March 2016 compared to the previous month. Since March 2015, employment in manufacturing has increased by 3,900. The durable goods subsector continues to expand rapidly with the addition of 3,800 jobs over the year, while nondurable goods industries added 100 jobs.
“Consumer confidence—as measured by the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index—has moved up. Consumers have a more positive outlook about their personal finance,” said Shanker. “It translates into greater demand for durable goods. The transportation sector, which includes motor vehicles and parts, has seen strong growth over the last 12 months.”
The information sector rose by 100 jobs in March 2016. This segment has declined by 900 positions from a year ago. The industries in this sector include traditional publishing as well as software publishing; motion pictures and broadcasting; and telecommunications.
Employment in the other services sector, which includes repairs and maintenance, personal care services, and religious organizations, increased by 100 positions in March 2016 from a month ago. This sector decreased by 200 jobs from a year ago.
The financial activities sector remained unchanged in March 2016 from a year ago. The sector has expanded by a little more than 2 percent during the last year with the addition of 1,900 jobs.
Employment in the mining and logging sector decreased by 100 positions in March 2016 from a month ago. The industry has declined by 2,600 positions from a year ago.
The educational and health services sector dropped by 1,000 positions in March 2016, but there was a robust gain of 10,200 jobs or nearly 4 percent from a year ago. Health care jobs, which account for nearly 90 percent of employment in this sector, declined by 100 positions over the year.
The construction sector fell by 1,100 jobs in March 2016 from a month ago. Since March 2015, construction jobs have expanded by 2,500 positions.
“In spite of the decline in jobs in March, the construction sector has been performing well, especially in the areas of heavy and civil engineering construction and specialty trade,” said Shanker.
The government sector, which includes public education, public administration agencies and state-owned hospitals, decreased by 1,600 jobs in March 2016. The sector posted a drop of 5,700 jobs compared to March 2015.
Civilian labor force statistics include nonmilitary workers and unemployed Kentuckians who are actively seeking work. They do not include unemployed Kentuckians who have not looked for employment within the past four weeks.
Kentucky’s statewide unemployment rate and employment levels are seasonally adjusted. Employment statistics undergo sharp fluctuations due to seasonal events, such as weather changes, harvests, holidays and school openings and closings. Seasonal adjustments eliminate these influences and make it easier to observe statistical trends. However, because of the small sample size, county unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.