Economic Report: The Good and the Bad from Kentucky's Nine Economic Regions

  • The Kentucky Chamber has taken a close look at employment and wage/salary growth since the bottom of the 2008-09 recession, using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recently released Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. The analysis found that several regions in the state are surpassing the national average in the area of job growth; however, average pay per job continues to be an economic development challenge in all areas of the state.

    The analysis, conducted by Senior Economic Advisor Dr. Paul Coomes, looks specifically at the employment and wage/salary trends in nine regions of Kentucky.

    “Using commuting patterns and television market areas, I’ve identified nine regional economies in Kentucky: Paducah Purchase; Bowling Green-Hopkinsville; Cumberland; Mountain; Ashland; Northern Kentucky; Lexington; Louisville-Elizabethtown; and Owensboro-Henderson,” said Coomes. “Probing the fundamental differences among the regions – in terms of topography, natural resources, industrial structure, population density and other demographics – should lead to more appropriate and successful state policies than treating the state in a homogenous way.” 

    By organizing the just-released county data on jobs and wages through 2013, Coomes was able to examine economic growth since the last recession. He found the following trends:

    • The Lexington, Louisville, and Bowling Green-Hopkinsville regions had the highest growth in total jobs and four Kentucky regions surpassed the national average. The Mountain area continued to lose jobs. (See Chart 1)
    • The Louisville region posted nearly twice the growth rate in manufacturing jobs as any other economic region. The Paducah-Purchase region has fewer manufacturing jobs than five years ago. (See Chart 1)

    • In terms of wages and salaries, six of the regions grew by over 17 percent. However, payrolls declined in the Mountain region by 10 percent, the Ashland region grew by only 6 percent, and the Cumberland region posted only a 9 percent increase. (See Chart 2)
    • Average pay per job continues to be an economic development challenge across Kentucky, with all nine regions posting slower growth than the United States. The Northern Kentucky region had the strongest growth in average pay, around 18 percent, while there was no growth in pay in the Mountain region. However, four of the Kentucky regions had stronger growth in manufacturing pay than the U.S. 

    Coomes will delve further into other trends found in each of the nine regions during a presentation on July 22 at the Chamber’s Business Summit and Annual Meeting in Louisville. The presentation, titled, “The Future of the Nine Economic Regions of Kentucky” will begin a 1:30 p.m. 

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    Thursday, June 26, 2014

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