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Nearly Half of Kentucky’s Workforce Has Filed for Unemployment

By Erinn Broadus

Between March 6th and June 13th, Kentuckians filed 970,541 unemployment claims. Roughly 47 percent of the state’s labor force – or the population 16 years or older that is currently employed or actively looking for work – is unable to find work. COVID-19 continues to have a particularly significant impact on employment in the Bluegrass state, in part because of the restrictions put in place to try slow the spread of the virus. Many Kentuckians worked in the manufacturing or service industries, which made working from home impossible. Even as states begin to loosen the restrictions on their economies, Kentucky is second in the nation for the percentage of the labor force that has filed for unemployment, following Georgia at 54 percent.

Among its peer states, Kentucky is a clear outlier with double the percentage of the workforce unemployed compared to its surrounding states. Of Kentucky’s neighbors, Ohio and Indiana have the greatest percentages of unemployment claims at 24 percent – still only half of Kentucky’s rate. Tennessee, a state often compared to Kentucky, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, had the lowest percentage of their workforce to file for unemployment among Kentucky’s peer states, just 19 percent.

Between March 6th and June 13th, Kentuckians filed 970,541 claims, or 217 claims per 1,000 residents. Ohio, the next highest among our peer states, filed more claims than Kentucky (1,380,658) but at far lower rate of 118 claims per 1,000 residents.

Weekly Rate Calculations

Not only does the aggregate rate of unemployment filings in Kentucky surpass those of peer states, but when broken down by week, Kentucky’s rate of claims per 1,000 residents has outpaced its neighbors’ each week. West Virginia briefly surpassed Kentucky on the week of April 18th, but otherwise Kentucky continued to lead its peer states in claim rates.

While unemployment claims in Kentucky are beginning to decrease, the most recent data show that 37,453 residents filed for unemployment during the week of June 13th. This is down 3,280 claims from the prior week and down 80,122 from its peak of 117,575 in the week of April 4th.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services has offered in-person help to those experiencing delays in their unemployment but has largely been unable to handle the influx of individuals waiting for assistance. Nearly 52,000 claims are still pending.

According to the most recent data available from the week of June 13th, 1.5 million people nationwide filed for unemployment. During the week of June 13th when 5 in every 1,000 US residents filed for unemployment, 8 Kentuckians per 1,000 filed for unemployment during that same time frame.

When it comes to unemployment claims, Kentucky is not “in this together” with our peer states or the nation. Kentucky is a stark outlier in the percentage of labor force filing for unemployment and the rate of claims per 1,000 residents. It could not be more clear that it is time to get Kentuckians back to work.

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