Owensboro was getting national attention on Thursday, after the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said it was the only metropolitan area in the United States where the unemployment rate last month was lower than it was a year earlier.
The BLS report said the unemployment rate in the Owensboro metro — Daviess, Hancock and McLean counties — in June was 4.2% — down from 4.4% a year earlier.
CNN and other news outlets carried the story worldwide.
“Any time we can get positive national news like this, it really helps,” Candance Castlen Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday.
She said, “People are looking for small cities like Owensboro where they could move and feel safe. The timing couldn’t be better.”
Brake said, “Our board has been discussing how to show people our county and why they need to be here. This really helps.”
Brittaney Johnson, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., said, “I was on the phone today with a strategic planning consultant from another state and he had seen the news. Site consultants and companies throughout the country will see this. It puts us on the map.”
Mayor Tom Watson said, “I think it is really exciting that we have an economy that is so diverse that even with all that is going on we held on and improved our unemployment numbers.”
He said, “With industry like Owensboro Grain, Swedish Match, Sazerac, the hospital and our school districts, when something hits it doesn’t take us out because we have that diversity. That is how I read it. What we have been doing is working.”
Watson said, “Continually trying to look for progress is the key for smaller communities as is figuring out what kind of progress can be made with what you have. It is a big deal being the only one and to show a decrease when others are going the other way is incredible.”
City Manager Nate Pagan said the numbers show that progress continues to be made.
“The Federal BLS identifying Owensboro as the only metropolitan area in the country with a lower unemployment rate in June 2020 than June 2019 is a meaningful acknowledgment and objective confirmation of the progress we continue to make,” he said in a city press release.
“It is a testament to the wonderful employers and productive workforce in the community and is evidence of the strength and resilience of our diversified local economy,” Pagan said.
According to the report, unemployment rates were higher in June 2020 in 388 of the 389 metropolitan areas.
A total of 218 areas had jobless rates of less than 10% with six areas showing rates of at least 20%.
Nonfarm payroll employment decreased over the course of the year in 307 metropolitan areas and remained unchanged in 82 with the national unemployment rate for June 2020 was reported to be 11.2% compared to 3.8% this time last year.
While a -0.2% decline may not seem like something to get excited about, it is important to know the national landscape. For instance, Atlantic City-Hammonton, New Jersey, had the highest June unemployment rate of 34.3% growing 29.9% in the past year. Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Logan, Utah, shares the lowest rate at 3.5%. In all, 116 areas had rates above the 11.2% national unemployment rate with 267 having below and six areas with rates matching the national rate.
Metros in Kentucky are all actually faring well compared to this time last year with Bowling Green rising from 4.7% in 2019 to 5.1% in 2020, Elizabethtown-Fort Knox rising from 4.7% to 5%, Lexington-Fayette County rising from 3.9 to 4.2 and Louisville-Jefferson County being the hardest hit rising from 4.2% to 6.4%.
By Jacob Mulliken Messenger Inquirer