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July 15, 2014

Bouncing Back from the Bottom

Kentucky growing jobs, but wages can't keep up

FRANKFORT —  Most regions of Kentucky are adding jobs, but most of those jobs don’t pay very much, according to a recent analysis of the state’s economy by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

    Between July 2009 and December 2013, employment grew nationally by 7.3 percent overall with manufacturing jobs specifically growing by 3.6 percent.

University of Louisville economist Dr. Paul Coomes said four of the state’s nine regions are above the national averages in terms of job growth:

    • Louisville grew 12.7 percent overall and 22.3 percent in manufacturing.

    • Bowling Green-Hopkinsville grew 11.3 percent overall and 12.6 percent in manufacturing.

    • Owensboro-Henderson grew 8.5 percent in both total and manufacturing employment.

    • Northern Kentucky grew eight percent overall and 12.6 percent in manufacturing.

    While the Lexington region had the highest growth in total jobs (13.1 percent), a mere 3.4 percent came in manufacturing growth. The Cumberland region — which includes McCreary County — grew in overall employment by 6.4 percent and manufacturing employment by 6.6 percent. The Ashland region overall by 3.4 percent and in manufacturing jobs by just seven-tenths of a percent.

    While Paducah-Purchase grew overall by 6.7 percent, the region lost 8.5 percent of its manufacturing jobs. The opposite is true of the Mountains region in eastern Kentucky, where overall employment decreased by 5.3 percent despite a 4.8 percent growth in manufacturing jobs.

    When it comes to average pay per job, all nine regions fall below the national average which grew 25 percent between the second quarter of 2009 (the “bottom” of the recession) and the fourth quarter of 2013.

    In terms of wages and salaries, six regions grew by more than 17 percent.

    Northern Kentucky had the highest growth in average pay at 18 percent, followed by Owensboro-Henderson, Louisville, Paducah-Purchase, Lexington, and Bowling Green-Hopkinsville.

    The Cumberland region posted only a nine percent increase while the Ashland region grew by just under six percent. Payrolls actually declined in the Mountains region by 10 percent.

    Coomes is expected to expand on his report during a presentation at the Kentucky Chamber’s annual meeting in Louisville on July 22.

    “Probing the fundamental differences among the regions – in terms of topography, natural resources, industrial structure, population density and other demographics – should lead to more appropriate and successful state policies than treating the state in a homogenous way,” Dr. Coomes stated.

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