Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Releases August 2020 Unemployment Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: Links to the employment chart and the unemployment rate chart are below.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 17, 2020) – Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary August 2020 unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), an agency within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet (EWDC).

The preliminary August 2020 jobless rate was up 3.1 percentage points from July 2020 and up 3.3 percentage points from the 4.3 percent recorded for the state one year ago.

The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate for August 2020 was 8.4 percent, down from 10.2 percent in July 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 2,010,838 in August 2020, an increase of 173,437 individuals from July 2020. The number of people employed in August increased by 103,061, while the number unemployed increased by 70,376.

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 30,800 jobs, or 1.7 percent, in August 2020 compared to July 2020. Kentucky’s employment was down 120,400 jobs or 6.2 percent compared to August 2019.

“Data from both households and businesses suggest Kentucky’s employment increased in August, but remains significantly below prepandemic levels,” said University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) Director Mike Clark, Ph.D. “Estimates of Kentucky’s unemployment rate have been unusually volatile over the past few months. Determining whether individuals are unemployed or not in the labor force, and estimating their numbers have been more challenging during the pandemic due to the unusual situations workers are in and reduced response rates to the surveys. As a result, care should be taken when interpreting monthly changes in the state’s unemployment rate.”

Nonfarm data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics program. According to the survey, employment increased for eight of Kentucky’s eleven major nonfarm North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) job sectors in August while two declined and one was unchanged.

“As of August, Kentucky had recovered 62 percent of total nonfarm jobs lost from February to April when the pandemic hit the United States,” said Clark.

The government sector increased employment by 13,400 jobs from July 2020 to August 2020. Federal government employment rose by 2,500 jobs; state government employment increased by 1,200 jobs; and local government employment grew by 9,700 jobs. Total government employment was down 15,800 positions since August 2019.

“The increase in federal government employment was driven by temporary Census jobs,” said Clark. “Local government employment, which has been down since April, increased due to hiring in local educational services.”

The trade, transportation and utilities sector expanded by 8,200 jobs in August 2020, a growth of 2.2 percent. The retail trade subsector rose by 5,800 jobs in August 2020 while wholesale trade lost 600 positions and transportation, warehousing, and utilities gained 3,000 jobs. Since August 2019, employment in this sector has dropped by 20,800 positions or 5.1 percent.

The professional and business services sector gained 7,900 jobs or 4.3 percent in August 2020. The administration and support and waste management subsector added 8,400 positions; the professional, scientific and technical services subsector lost 800 jobs; and the management of companies subsector added 300 positions. Jobs in this sector have plummeted by 23,600 or 10.9 percent since August 2019.

Employment in Kentucky’s construction sector added 1,600 jobs in August 2020. This represents an increase of 2 percent from July. The construction sector was down 200 jobs or 0.2 percent from one year ago.

Employment in the other services sector increased by 1,400 jobs from July 2020 to August 2020. This sector was down by 800 positions since August 2019. The other services sector includes repairs and maintenance, personal care services and religious organizations.

The financial activities sector gained 900 positions in August 2020. The finance and insurance subsector added 100 jobs. The real estate, rental and leasing subsector was up 800 jobs from July 2020 to August 2020. The sector lost 5,700 jobs since last August.

Kentucky’s mining and logging sector added 200 jobs from July 2020 to August 2020, but was down 2,200 jobs or 22.7 percent from a year ago.

Kentucky’s leisure and hospitality sector rose by 100 positions from July 2020 to August 2020. This represents an increase of 0.1 percent over the month. This sector has lost 19,800 or 9.8 percent of jobs since August 2019. The accommodations and food services subsector fell by 100 jobs from July to August. Employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation subsector increased by 200 jobs.

“While Kentucky’s accommodations and food service establishments recovered many of the jobs lost in the early months of the pandemic, the recovery appeared to stall in August as these businesses face reduced capacity and demand,” said Clark.

Employment in Kentucky’s educational and health services sector was unchanged in August 2020. While the health care and social assistance subsector added 400 jobs from July to August, these gains were offset by a loss of 400 jobs in the educational services subsector. Since last August, the sector has declined by 11,500 positions or 4 percent.

Employment in the information services sector fell by 400 jobs in August 2020. This sector was down 3,700 jobs from a year ago. The industries in this sector include traditional publishing as well as software publishing; motion pictures and broadcasting; and telecommunications.

Kentucky’s manufacturing employment decreased 2,500 jobs from July 2020 to August 2020, or 1 percent. Employment in durable goods manufacturing fell by 300 jobs in August, while non-durable manufacturers lost 2,200 jobs. Kentucky’s manufacturing employment has dropped by 16,300 jobs since August 2019.

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.

To learn more about Kentucky labor market information, visit


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