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Harlan County unemployment second highest in KY

Harlan County was recently noted as having the second highest unemployment rate in Kentucky for 2019, charting its annual jobless rate at 9.6 percent, after the state released its annual county unemployment data for 2019. According to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, Harlan County recorded one of the largest increases in annual unemployment rates from 2018 to 2019 at +2.3 percentage points.

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said the county had a “very tough year” for unemployment in 2019 due to the Blackjewel bankruptcy, which impacted more than 300 miners who live here. He added other coal markets saw a plummet in the price of coal, resulting in even more layoffs in the fall.

“Obviously, this pandemic is going to complicate that matter even further,” Mosley said. “There’s been people who have been furloughed, a lot of people laid off, and even in the healthcare industry we’ve seen layoffs. Who would’ve thought that a worldwide pandemic, that is a public health crisis, would see hospitals having to lay people off, but that is what’s had to happen as a result of the way things have been operating in the hospital.”

Mosley said he expects to see high unemployment rates increase across the county, state and country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding the numbers are going to be “very alarming when they come out for the first and second quarters of the year.”

“Hopefully, once this virus subsides, we can see that number decline and people can get back to work,” he said. “We’ve even had a difficult decision in the Harlan County Fiscal Court to lay off 14 people of already. We hope we don’t have to layoff anymore, and we hope we are able to call those people back soon.”

The Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), an agency within the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, also charted Harlan’s neighboring county’s unemployment rates for 2019, including Bell (6.4 percent), Letcher (7.4 percent), Perry (6.1 percent) and Leslie (8.2 percent) counties.

“In contrast to the monthly national and state data, unemployment statistics for counties are not seasonally adjusted. The comparable, unadjusted annual state unemployment rate for the state was 4.3 percent for 2019, and 3.7 percent for the nation. For more information regarding seasonal fluctuations, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics at https://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm#why,” read a press release from the cabinet.

“In 2019, 80 counties were above the comparable, unadjusted annual state unemployment of 4.3 percent for the state, while 38 were below the state unadjusted rate and two (Harrison and Taylor counties) were the same rate.

“Compared to the national unadjusted 2019 annual rate of 3.7 percent, 107 Kentucky counties had higher 2019 annual rates, while 10 were lower and three (Anderson, Franklin and Henry counties) matched it.”

According to KYSTATS’ data, the annual jobless rate for Woodford County (3.1 percent) was the lowest in the Commonwealth in 2019. It was followed by Fayette and Oldham counties (3.3 percent each), Boone and Shelby counties (3.4 percent each), Campbell and Scott counties (3.5 percent each) and Kenton, Jessamine and Spencer counties (3.6 percent each).

Magoffin County (11 percent) recorded the state’s highest annual unemployment rate in 2019. It was followed by Harlan County (9.6 percent), Lewis County (8.9 percent), Carter County (8.3 percent), Elliott and Leslie counties (8.2 percent each), Breathitt County (7.5 percent), Letcher County (7.4 percent) and Lawrence and Wolfe counties (7.1 percent each). In 2019, Magoffin County remained the only county to have had an annual rate at or above 10 percent.

KYSTATs also determined the counties with the largest decline in annual unemployment rates from 2018 to 2019 were Magoffin County (-1.9 percentage point), Ballard County (-1.3 percentage points), Elliott and Wayne counties (-1.2 percentage points each), Livingston County (-1.1 percentage points) and Morgan County (-1 percentage point).

The counties that recorded the largest increases in annual unemployment rates from 2018 to 2019 were Harlan County (+2.3 percentage points), Leslie County (+1.1 percentage points), Letcher County (+1 percentage point), Hart County (+0.7 percentage points) and Lewis, Metcalfe and Simpson counties (+0.6 percentage points each).

To view each county’s unemployment data, go to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet website.