Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Releases March 2021 Unemployment Report

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

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 15, 2021) — Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary March 2021 unemployment rate was 5%, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), an agency within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet (EWDC).

The preliminary March 2021 jobless rate was down 0.2 percentage points from February 2021 and up 0.8 percentage points from the 4.2% recorded for the state one year ago.

The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate for March 2021 was 6%, down from the 6.2% reported in February 2021, 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 1,990,548 in March 2021, a decrease of 2,548 individuals from February 2021. The number of people employed in March increased by 1,283 to 1,890,995 while the number unemployed decreased by 3,831 to 99,553.

“Two main factors contributed to the lower unemployment rate in March,” said University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) Director Mike Clark, Ph.D. “First, more people were employed, indicating the economy is continuing to recover. Second, many people stopped looking for employment, suggesting that some workers still face challenges finding jobs.”

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 3,300 jobs in March 2021 compared to February 2021. Kentucky’s nonfarm employment was down 84,300 jobs or 4.3% compared to March 2020.

“Overall, Kentucky’s employment situation continued to improve in March,” said Clark. “However, employment numbers were mixed as several sectors reported reductions in payrolls.”

Nonfarm data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics program. According to the survey, employment increased for five of Kentucky’s 11 major nonfarm North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) job sectors in March 2021, while four declined and two were unchanged.

Employment at Kentucky’s manufacturers was up 1,500 jobs or 0.6% from February 2021 to March 2021. The durable goods subsector gained 1,700 jobs while non-durable goods lost 200 jobs in March 2021. Kentucky’s manufacturing employment was down 6,000 positions or 2.4% since March 2020.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector expanded by 1,000 positions from February 2021 to March 2021. Retail trade employment added 1,600 positions in March. The transportation, warehousing and utilities subsector decreased by 100 jobs while the wholesale trade subsector reported 500 fewer jobs in March. Since March 2020, employment in this sector has fallen by 1,600 positions or 0.4%.

The professional and business services sector increased by 900 jobs or 0.4% in March 2021. The administrative and support and waste management subsector gained 400 positions and the professional, scientific and technical services subsector added 500 positions. The management of companies subsector was unchanged in March. Employment in this sector was down 4,200 or 1.9% since March 2020.

The financial activities sector grew by 600 positions in March 2021. All of the additional jobs in this sector occurred in the finance and insurance subsector, which reported 600 more jobs from February 2021 to March 2021. The real estate, rental and leasing subsector was unchanged in March. The sector was up 400 jobs or 0.4% from last March.

“While employment in Kentucky’s financial sector suffered significant declines when the pandemic began, employment in this sector steadily improved and was above pre-pandemic levels in March,” said Clark.

The other services sector reported 600 additional jobs in March 2021 and was down 6,700 positions since March 2020. The other services sector includes repairs and maintenance, personal care services and religious organizations.

Employment in the government sector did not change from February 2021 to March 2021. Federal and state government employment were down 200 jobs each, while local government employment was up 400 positions. Total government employment was down 16,000 positions or 5.1% since March 2020.

The information services sector was unchanged from February to March. The industries in this sector include traditional publishing as well as software publishing; motion pictures and broadcasting; and telecommunications. Jobs in this sector fell by 1,200 or 5.6% from a year ago.

Kentucky’s educational and health services sector declined by 100 jobs in March 2021. The educational services subsector added 700 positions, but the health care and social assistance subsector dropped by 800 positions. Since last March, the sector has decreased 14,200 jobs or 4.9%.

Employment in Kentucky’s mining and logging sector declined by 100 jobs in March and was down 1,100 jobs or 13.1% from a year ago.

Kentucky’s construction sector fell by 300 jobs in March 2021, a 0.4% decrease from February. The construction sector was down 2,700 positions or 3.3% from one year ago.

Kentucky’s leisure and hospitality sector lost 800 positions from February 2021 to March 2021, a decrease of 0.5%. This sector was down 31,000 jobs or 15.7% compared to March 2020. The accommodations and food services subsector fell by 600 jobs in March while the arts, entertainment and recreation subsector lost 200 positions.

“As capacity restrictions on restaurants were eased in late December, employment in the accommodations and food services sectors improved,” said Clark. “However, increases in employment did not carry over into February and March. This could indicate that businesses in this sector are continuing to struggle.”

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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