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Shelby's unemployment plummets in April

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County’s 5.8 percent rate is 2nd best in state, down big from 2011

By Steve Doyle

Shelby County’s unemployment statistics took another significant surge downward in April to 5.8 percent, the second-lowest rate in the state.

That figure declined from 7 percent in March and, more significantly, 2.7 percent from the 8.5 percent rate of April 2011.

Only Woodford County (5.1 percent) had a lower rate in April, but, among neighboring counties, both Spencer and Trimble counties has more precipitous drops. Spencer fell to from 10.1 in April 2011 and 8.0 in March to 6.5, and Trimble was down 10.5/9.2 to 7.6.

Kentucky’s overall rate for April is 7.8 percent, down from 9.0 in March and 9.4 a year ago. The U.S. average is 7.7 percent.

Among the other counties in the KIPDA region, Oldham was at 5.9 percent, Henry 7.6, Jefferson 8.1 and Bullitt 8.4. Anderson County was at 6.5 and Franklin 6.6. Fulton County recorded the state’s highest unemployment rate – 20.5 percent.

But the reasons for those success stories in Shelby County – such as manufacturing segment job growth – might not be what you expect, an analyst who works with those reports says.

“When you look at unemployment rates, you count households that are employed,” said Manoj Shanker, who works in the Office of Employment and Training at the Kentucky Education & Workforce Development Cabinet. “This affects both Shelby and Spencer counties. They are both bedroom communities for Jefferson.

“This is about the people who live here, the residents and not the businesses. This is people who are employed, part of being a suburb of Jefferson and – too – Franklin counties.”

Shanker said the monthly change was not yet statistically valid because seasonal adjustments lag, but he seemed impressed by the year-over-year change, which he said was statistically sound.

And he acknowledges that there has been job growth in Shelby County, specifically citing the added workforce at Martinrea Heavy Stamping, which is recruiting for more than 200 jobs because of its new contracts with Ford.

“Hiring would be a factor [in the unemployment rate],” he said. “But one can’t distinguish between the two [residence and employment]. There are more jobs out there. Again, the quality of jobs doesn’t matter.”

Shelby County has a labor force of 21,174 and an employment of 19,943. As of April, there were 1,231 workers who had filed for unemployment. That would tend to suggest that about 200 newly employed residents would have to be counted to move the needle by a percent.

But Shanker said there are about 377 more people employed than there were in April 2011.

“As you can see employment was up by 377 [from 2011], and the number unemployed declined by 591,” he wrote in a follow-up E-mail. “The decline in civilian labor force is a tricky concept to explain. There are numerous factors that affect the labor force.

“Chief among them is demographics. With the aging population more people are retiring, i.e. leaving the labor force.

“On the other side as couples choose to have fewer children the number of entrants into the labor force is growing more slowly than the number leaving the labor force.”

That said, Shanker didn’t want to diminish the positive movement from an unemployment rate that at one time in the past four years had exceeded 12 percent.

“This is really good news,” he said.