Despite announcements of job gains in recent months, state figures show the unemployment rate in Louisville went up in June and remains above the national average. But city officials believe the local economy is showing signs of improvement in the region.
National unemployment is 9.3 percent and the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training shows the city’s jobless rate was 10.3 percent last month, up from 9.9 percent in May. It estimates over 39,000 people are unemployed in Jefferson County, but the statistics do not include people who’ve given up searching for work within the past four weeks.
Kentuckiana Works executive director Michael Gritton says the local workforce is frustrated with the slow economic recovery, but there are signs of better days ahead.
“Well the good news is the job picture is starting to improve slowly in our region. We did an event with Congressman John Yarmuth and his staff last Friday where we had six different employers from across different industries who represented over a 1,000 job openings,” he says. “Many of those companies are new to our market and others are old stand-bys like UPS…but still, obviously a 9.5 percent unemployment rate is much, much too high.”
For the region encompassing the 13-county Louisville-Southern Indiana metropolitan area, however, joblessness remained steady at 9.5 percent last month with over 62,000 people looking for work. The range of unemployment in the surrounding counties reflects how the recession has hit some places harder than others.
In Bullitt County, for instance, the rate was 10.7 percent while it was only 7.7 percent in Oldham County.
“The number is just too high,” says Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “We want it to be going down and down consistently over the next several months. Obviously this does not factor in a lot of the recent jobs that were announced and are going to be back in the economy.”
Earlier this month, around 17,000 people lined up to apply for 1,100 jobs up for grabs at Ford, which announced a round of new jobs would be coming once the automotive company opens its new assembly plan.
Gritton says the pace of the recovery has been delayed in part because of cuts made to programs that create job opportunities.
After receiving stimulus money for an education initiative two years ago, the labor group has seen funding dry up and was forced to close four satellite career locations in the city due to federal budget cuts.
“Now (funding) is not an easy thing to sell these days because some people think all we need to do is cut, cut, cut, but I don’t happen to agree with that. Some of the things the federal government does are investments that end up making people more educated and more competitive,” he says.
Across the state unemployment dropped to 9.7 percent compared to 10.3 last year, with 96 counties seeing a decrease. Wodford County recorded the lowest jobless rate in the commonwealth at 7.4 percent while Jackson County had the highest rate at 16.8 percent.