Last updated: July 18. 2013 7:41PM - 152 Views
Rep. Hubert Collins

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Between the start of the 2013 legislative session in early January and the end of February, good things were happening to Kentucky’s economy, starting with a 0.2-percent drop in the state’s jobless rate.

The rate dropped from 8.1 to 7.9 percent between the end of December 2012 through last February, ending at close to half a percent (0.4 percent, exactly) below the 8.3 percent rate recorded in Feb. 2012. It was a gradual but sustained drop, signifying to many that the economy is on the upswing.

An official with the state Office of Employment and Training declared, after analyzing the state’s February 2013 data, that he saw “considerable improvement in Kentucky’s labor market.” He added that Kentucky has made “considerably more progress than the average state in gaining back lost jobs from the Great Recession.”

We lawmakers took a long look at this data when the House Labor and Industry Committee received an unemployment update from the Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development in early February. Like the OET official, we became instantly optimistic.

The best news was the marked decrease in total unemployment benefits paid in Kentucky from 2009 through 2012—an indicator that, possibly, more Kentuckians are headed back to work. Total benefits fell from $1.83 billion in 2009 to $1.79 billion in 2010, $1.35 billion in 2011, and $967.8 million in 2012, according to a chart given by the Cabinet to the committee.

Another chart, this one on job growth, demonstrated that Kentucky’s 12-month growth rate of 1.5 percent in nonfarm employment throughout 2012 was the highest of all seven surrounding states with the exception of Illinois. The states’ growth rate and number of jobs added due to rate of growth (according to federal Current Employment Statistics) for calendar year 2012 were: Kentucky, 1.5 percent, 27,931 jobs added; Illinois, 1.5 percent, 86,443 jobs added; Virginia, 1.4 percent, 55,476 jobs added; Ohio, 1.1 percent, 60,231 jobs added; West Virginia, 1 percent, 7,674 jobs added; Tennessee, 0.6 percent, 48,196 jobs added; Indiana, 0.6 percent, 16,995 jobs added; and Missouri, 0.4 percent, 10,593 jobs added.

Lawmakers received even more good news as the Cabinet told the committee that Kentucky is slowly-but-surely paying off $949 million in debt we owe to the federal government for funds borrowed to pay unemployment claims during last recession. Kentucky lawmakers passed legislation in 2012 allowing the debt to be paid through a combination of revenue bonds issued for the first three years of interest on the debt and a per-employee surcharge on employers starting in 2014 to cover both that interest and future interest owed. As of early January, these combined efforts have reduced the outstanding balance on our debt to the federal government to $837 million.

Great news indeed.

But the best news was yet to come, and it arrived about a week before the end of the 2013 legislative session in the form of a news release issued by the Cabinet on March 21.

The news release showed us where Kentuckians are going back to work, where exact employment gains are being made. Headlining the list was the state’s battered manufacturing sector, in which the Cabinet reported a six-percent increase in employment between Feb. 2012 and this past February for a total of 13,100 new jobs. Most of those jobs were in durable goods, such as automotive manufacturing.

Also on the rebound are: Kentucky’s leisure and hospitality sector, which grew by 5,200 jobs, or three percent, between Feb. 2012 and Feb. 2013; the educational and health services sector, which has posted an increase of 1,700 jobs between Feb. 2012 and Feb. 2013, mostly in health care; the construction sector, which has added over 300 jobs since Feb. 2012; Trade, transportation and utilities, which added 5,700 jobs between Feb. 2012 and Feb. 2013; the government sector, which had 400 more jobs in Feb. 2013 than in Feb. 2012; the professional and business services sector, which had grown by over 1,600 jobs between Feb. 2012 and Feb. 2013; and those businesses involved in finance, insurance, real estate and leasing, which gained 2,500 jobs between Feb. 2012 and Feb. 2013.

Some industries continue to lose jobs—mining, logging, newspapers and media, and religious and personal care services, to be specific. But as other sectors and consumer confidence grows, there is real hope that those lagging sectors will rebound, too.

It is my hope that you are finding 2013 to be a prosperous year and one filled with health and happiness. I will have more to share with you next time. Have a great week ahead.

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