State economy showed progress in previous year

By Cheyene Miller

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A new report from the Gatton College of Business and Economics showed that Kentucky experienced economic improvement in the past year after a hard-hitting recession took nearly 170,000 jobs in the past.

Data from the 43rd Kentucky Annual Economic Report show more positive trends than the state has seen since the economic downturn.

Information from the report was presented by UK economics professor Christopher R. Bollinger, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, at the 26th Annual Economics Outlook Conference in the Lexington Convention Center Tuesday morning.

“My forecast is guardedly optimistic,” Bollinger said.

According to the report breakdown, Kentucky added 50,000 jobs for a 2.7 percent growth, which was above the national average of two percent. According to Bollinger, the Kentucky economy experienced a boom in the fall.

Data from the report also cleared up some misconceptions about Kentucky’s economy. Bourbon, tobacco, agriculture and mining are thought to be the state’s key economic resources, yet all together, they made up only 2.3 percent of Kentucky employment and 2.7 percent of Kentucky earnings.

The biggest job industries in Kentucky are government jobs, making up 19 percent of Kentucky employment, and health care and manufacturing jobs, which each make up 12 percent of Kentucky employment. Bollinger noted that health care and education in Kentucky are growing, and in regard to manufacturing, he said, “We produce more than ever before.”

“Kentucky is way more than coal, horses and bourbon,” Bollinger said.

The three cities that make up the “triangle region” of Kentucky, Lexington, Louisville and the Cincinnati area, all have unemployment rates below the national average of 5.6 percent, Bollinger said. Lexington stands at 4.5 percent, Louisville at 5.1 percent and Cincinnati at 4.3 percent. Kentucky as a whole has a 5.7 unemployment rate, according to the report.

The region is home to half of Kentucky’s population, 59 percent of its employment and 54 percent of its businesses, according to the report.

Though he is optimistic about Kentucky’s future, Bollinger noted that he is in a difficult business, as predicting the exact outcome of a state or federal economy is nearly impossible.

“The problem with forecasting is you can only be wrong,” Bollinger said.