FRANKFORT (KT) – Kentucky’s jobless rate in February dropped slightly according to figures released Thursday by the Kentucky Center for Statistics, an agency within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

The seasonally adjusted preliminary February 2021 unemployment rate was 5.2%, which was down 0.1% from January but up 1% from the 4.2% recorded in February 2020  – one month before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Kentucky recorded its first case on March 6, 2020.

Kentucky is still faring better than the nation as a whole, as the U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate for February 2021 was 6.2%, down from the 6.3% reported in January 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Kentucky’s civilian labor force was 1,993,122 in February 2021, an increase of 3,742 individuals from January 2021. The number of people employed in February increased by 6,720 to 1,889,699, while the number of unemployed decreased by 2,978 to 103,423.

“The number of workers with jobs improved slightly in February, helping to push the state’s unemployment rate further down,” said Mike Clark, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research.  “Over the past two months, both the number of people in the labor force and the number of people employed have improved. However, workers are finding jobs more quickly than they are returning to the labor force, which lowers Kentucky’s unemployment rate.”

In a separate federal survey of business establishments that excludes jobs in agriculture and people who are self-employed, Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment increased by 4,300 jobs in February 2021 compared to January 2021. Kentucky’s nonfarm employment was down 100,400 jobs or 5.1% compared to February 2020.

“Payroll data from Kentucky’s employers pointed to a continued recovery in February that was driven primarily by hiring in-state educational services,” said Clark. “However, employment was mixed across the state’s other major sectors.”

Nonfarm data is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics program. According to the survey, employment increased for four of Kentucky’s 11 major nonfarm North American Industry Classification System job sectors in February 2021, while five declined and two were unchanged.

Kentucky’s statewide unemployment rate and employment levels are seasonally adjusted, because the numbers undergo sharp fluctuations due to seasonal events, such as weather changes, harvests, holidays and school openings and closings. Seasonal adjustments eliminate these influences and make it easier to observe statistical trends.