Education and Workforce Development Cabinet releases May 2020 unemployment report

Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary May 2020 unemployment rate was 11 percent, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), an agency within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet (EWDC).

The preliminary May 2020 jobless rate was down 5.6 percentage points from April 2020 and up 6.7 percentage points from the 4.3 percent recorded for the state in May 2019. The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate for May 2020 was 13.3 percent, down from 14.7 percent in April 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Labor force statistics, including the unemployment rate, are based upon estimates from the Current Population Survey of households. The survey is designed to measure trends in the number of people working, and includes jobs in agriculture and individuals who are self-employed.

Kentucky’s civilian labor force was 2,030,556 in May 2020, a decrease of 21,707 individuals from April 2020. The number of people employed in May increased by 95,362, while the number unemployed decreased by 117,069.

“The number of workers employed increased in May, pushing the state’s unemployment rate down to 11 percent,” said University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) Director Mike Clark, Ph.D. “However, Kentucky’s unemployed rate remains high and some workers have—at least temporarily—stopped looking for work.”

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 30,400 jobs, or 1.9 percent, in May 2020 compared to April 2020. Kentucky’s employment was down 286,900 jobs relative to May 2019, or 14.8 percent.

“With social distancing restrictions easing, employers have taken tentative steps to bring some of their employees back to work,” said Clark. “While encouraging, the increase in jobs from April to May represents only a small portion of the jobs lost in recent months.”

Nonfarm data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics program. According to the survey, eight of Kentucky’s 11 major nonfarm North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) job sectors reported increased employment employment in May. Three sectors experienced decreased employment in May.

Kentucky’s leisure and hospitality sector recovered 18,300 positions in May, which represents a increase of 16.3 percent over April. This sector was down 71,500 positions since May 2019. The accommodations and food services subsector added 17,400 jobs from April to May. Employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation subsector increased by 900 jobs.

“In May, leisure and hospitality firms recovered about 20 percent of the jobs lost from February to April,” said Clark. “This sector is still down 35 percent from last year.”

Kentucky’s manufacturing employment increased 13,300 positions from April 2020 to May 2020, or 6.8 percent. Employment in durable goods manufacturing gained 11,800 jobs, while non-durable manufacturers added 1,500 jobs in May. Kentucky’s manufacturing employment decreased by 42,200 jobs since May 2019.

Employment increased by 4,000 jobs in the other services sector from April 2020 to May 2020. This sector was down by 6,700 positions since May 2019. The other services sector includes repairs and maintenance, personal care services and religious organizations.

Employment in Kentucky’s construction sector was up 3,100 jobs in May 2020. This represents an increase of 4.2 percent from April. The construction sector was down 3,500 jobs, or 4.4 percent, from one year ago.

Employment in Kentucky’s educational and health services sector increased by 3,000 jobs in May 2020. The educational services subsector was up 1,500 jobs in May. Health care and social assistance subsector also increased 1,500 positions from April to May. Since last May, the sector has fallen by 28,400 positions or 10.1 percent.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector added 2,400 jobs in May 2020, an increase of 0.7 percent. Wholesale trade increased 500 jobs; retail trade increased 2,500 jobs; and transportation, warehousing, and utilities decreased by 600 jobs. Since May 2019, employment in this sector has decreased by 49,400 positions or 12.2 percent.

Kentucky’s mining and logging sector added 1,200 jobs from April 2020 to May 2020, and was down 3,600 jobs, or 35 percent, from a year ago.

The financial activities sector added 300 jobs in May 2020. The finance and insurance subsector was up 600 jobs while the real estate, rental and leasing subsector was down 300 jobs from April to May. The sector was down 6,400 jobs compared to last May.

Employment in the information services sector fell by 900 jobs in May 2020. This sector was down 4,300 positions from a year ago. The industries in this sector include traditional publishing as well as software publishing; motion pictures and broadcasting; and telecommunications.

The professional and business services sector declined by 1,600 jobs or 0.9 percent in May 2020. The administration and support and waste management subsector added 300 positions; the professional, scientific and technical services subsector lost 1,900 positions; and the management of companies subsector was unchanged. This sector was down 41,600 jobs since May 2019.

Total employment in the government sector fell by 12,700 jobs from April 2020 to May 2020. Federal government employment was unchanged, but state government employment decreased by 5,300 jobs and local government employment decreased by 7,400 jobs. Total government employment has declined by 29,300 jobs since May 2019.

“State and local governments face significant fiscal uncertainty as decreases in employment reduce their tax revenue,” said Clark. “This uncertainty likely contributed to reductions in public employment for May.”

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, due to the small sample size, county unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.

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Additional information is available on the Education & Workforce Development Cabinet website.