Regions feeling economic recovery differently, Ky. Chamber of Commerce study finds

12/29/2014 07:30 PM

Some regions of the state have flourished more than others during Kentucky’s five-year climb from the recession, with the state’s urban areas leading in employment and payroll growth while Appalachia lost more than 10 percent of its jobs and wages, according to a report by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce released Monday.

Kentucky’s 11 percent growth in manufacturing jobs between June 2009, the “bottom” of the recession, and June this year was more than twice the national average of 4.2 percent, according to the study by Paul Coomes, the chamber’s senior consulting economist.

The state lagged the 6.3 percent national average in overall employment growth, bringing in 5.6 percent more jobs in the five-year timeframe, but Coomes said the biggest hurdle is pay. Manufacturing wages in Kentucky jumped 28.9 percent, 10.6 percent higher than the national average, but overall growth trailed the U.S. average by 2 percent, according to his study.

“We’re back to where we were six and a half years ago as far as jobs,” Coomes, also an emeritus professor of economics at the University of Louisville, said in a conference call with reporters.

“We’ve had as good as the national average as far as growth rate. The weakness is pay per job. That continues to be a problem in Kentucky.”

Coomes, who based his study on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, divided the state into nine regions, with Louisville, northern Kentucky and Bowling Green-Hopkinsville topping a number of economic categories.

“It’s really the major urban areas and the Interstate 65, 75 corridors that are leading the way in jobs and in payroll,” he said, “and also when you break it out into manufacturing, you also see Louisville, northern Kentucky, Bowling Green having the fastest growth in jobs.”

Still, Kentucky’s eastern regions have seen flat or declining growth since the recession’s lowest point five years ago. The mountain region has seen its overall employment figures drop 10.3 percent and its wages down 10.8 percent, with overall quarterly pay per job up 1.3 percent.

The Ashland region typically ranked second worst in many economic categories, according to the study. Jobs there were down 4.5 percent while wages grew 3.4 percent and average quarterly pay per job up 9.2 percent.

“The other thing you see is a continuation of what we’ve been pointing out now for the last year or so is that the mountain region is still in decline and the Ashland region is pretty flat,” Coomes said. “The far east of the state has never really recovered from the recession.”

Kentucky’s comparison to contiguous states is also a mixed bag. While the state ranks among the top four in five categories of job and wage growth, it’s sixth of eight in average quarterly pay growth per job.

Chamber President Dave Adkisson said he was happy to have a detailed look at the state’s employment and economic data.

“Just simply releasing the unemployment rate for the state of Kentucky really doesn’t give us the insights we need into what’s going on in regions around the state,” he said in the conference call.

Here’s how each of the nine regions compared from June 2009 through June 2014:

Job growth

Bowling Green-Hopkinsville, 8.2 percent

Louisville, 7.9 percent

Lexington, 7.3 percent

Northern Kentucky, 6.3 percent

Owensboro-Henderson, 4.9 percent

Paducah-Purchase, 3.4 percent

Cumberland, 1.1 percent

Ashland, down 4.5 percent

Mountains, down 10.3 percent

(Kentucky average, 5.6 percent; U.S. average, 6.3 percent)

Manufacturing job growth

Louisville, 19.7 percent

Northern Kentucky, 16.5 percent

Bowling Green-Hopkinsville, 13.6 percent

Cumberland, 7.1 percent

Owensboro-Henderson, 6.6 percent

Ashland, 6.2 percent

Lexington, 4.2 percent

Mountains, 1 percent

Paducah-Purchase, down 5.4 percent

(Kentucky average, 11 percent; U.S. average, 4.2 percent)

Wage growth

Northern Kentucky, 20.9 percent

Louisville, 20.1 percent

Owensboro-Henderson, 17.2 percent

Lexington, 17 percent

Paducah-Purchase, 16.9 percent

Bowling Green-Hopkinsville, 16.3 percent

Cumberland, 9.9 percent

Ashland, 3.4 percent

Mountains, down 10.8 percent

(Kentucky average, 16.4 percent; U.S. average, 18.4 percent)

Manufacturing wage growth

Louisville, 39.2 percent

Northern Kentucky, 37.3 percent

Bowling Green-Hopkinsville, 33.4 percent

Cumberland, 27.5 percent

Owensboro-Henderson, 25.2 percent

Lexington, 19 percent

Paducah-Purchase, 13.4 percent

Ashland, 6.5 percent

Mountains, down 3.2 percent

(Kentucky average, 28.9 percent; U.S. average, 18.3 percent)

Quarterly pay per job growth

Northern Kentucky, 17 percent

Paducah-Purchase, 15.9 percent

Louisville, 14.6 percent

Owensboro-Henderson, 13.8 percent

Lexington, 12.5 percent

Bowling Green-Hopkinsville, 10.7 percent

Cumberland, 10.6 percent

Unallocated, 10.2 percent

Ashland, 9.2 percent

Mountains, 1.3 percent

(Kentucky average, 13.3 percent; U.S. average, 14.7 percent)

Quarterly pay per manufacturing job growth

Unallocated, 21.8 percent

Northern Kentucky, 21.1 percent

Bowling Green-Hopkinsville, 20.4 percent

Cumberland, 20.3 percent

Louisville, 19.2 percent

Lexington, 19.2 percent

Owensboro-Henderson, 18 percent

Paducah-Purchase, 16 percent

Ashland, down 0.1 percent

Mountains, down 1.1 percent

(Kentucky average, 18.8 percent; U.S. average, 16.4 percent)

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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