Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Owensboro Unemployment at Lowest Level since 2008

Daviess County’s unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in August — the lowest it’s been since the beginning of the Great Recession.

The last time the county saw a rate lower than 8 percent — a figure once considered high — was nearly three years ago, in December 2008, when it was at 7.1 percent.

Local unemployment stood at 9 percent in both July 2011 and August 2010, the numbers released by the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training show.

“We’re not where we’d like to be, but the (new) number is reflective of some positive economic projects we’ve had over the past couple of years,” Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., said Monday.

The new numbers show that 1,100 more people — 45,477 — are working here today than in December 2008.

But the number of people in the work force has also grown — by 1,493 people to 49,282.

The state lists 3,805 people as unemployed in the county today, up 393 from December 2008.

Brake said U.S. Bank Home Mortgage has hired several hundred people in the past year and the hospital continues to add workers.

And, he said, “Our strategy supporting entrepreneurship is paying off as some of the smaller companies are hiring now too. I still have concerns about the possibility of a double-dip recession, but I’m optimistic. This is a very strong sign of economic activity in the community.”

Daviess’ 7.7 percent rate was matched by both Hancock and Ohio counties in August.

Hancock’s unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in December 2008. It hit 14.8 percent six months later.

But the jobless rate there has been dropping steadily in recent months as many of the industries began calling back workers who had been laid off.

“We’re heavy in manufacturing over here,” said Mike Baker, executive director of the Hancock County Industrial Foundation. “All of our plants are flush right now. There haven’t been any expansions or hirings, but they’re in good shape. We’ve also seen an uptick in hiring of temporary workers.”

But he said there’s a national shortage of electricians, electrical contractors and mechanics that will “reach epidemic levels within three years.”

If people are looking for careers, those are good fields to consider, Baker said.

The statewide unemployment rate for August was 9.1 percent — down from 9.7 percent in July and 10.1 percent in August 2010.