August unemployment rate in Jessamine County dropped to a four-year low, coming in at 6.8 percent in August 2012, according to Kentucky Labor Market Information. Jessamine’s rate was easily better than the state’s, which saw the unemployment rate rise to 8.5 percent from July’s 8.3 percent.
“An uptick in the unemployment rate, especially when accompanied by a drop in the number of people employed, does cause some anxiety,” said economist Manoj Shanker with the Office of Employment and Training. “But given the sluggish national economy and the recent strength of the Kentucky economy, some fallback was expected.”
Not since the unemployment rate was 5.9 percent in August 2008 has the number in Jessamine County been this low.
Jessamine County Joint Economic Development Authority director Wayne Foster said Jessamine’s numbers are dropping for a reason, and that reason is jobs.
According to Nicholasville’s annual Report to the Community, some 230 new and future jobs have contributed and will contribute to the falling unemployment rate.
“I am encouraged, particularly in the area of manufacturing and distribution firms,” Foster said. “I know there are good things happening in the retail end of things, too.”
Prior to the economy tanking, Jessamine County’s unemployment rate was among the state’s lowest, with its average rate around 4.8 percent between 2005 and 2008. When the economy began to falter, Jessamine County’s rate skyrocketed to 10 percent in June and July 2009 and had remained above 7 percent every month until August 2012. The county’s unemployment rate fell a full point between August 2011 and August 2012.
“I am pleased with the trend — no question about it,” Foster said. “We’re doing quite well across the board.”
Foster said that after conducting a survey of industries in Jessamine County, he discovered that many existing companies, including Donaldson, McKechnie Vehicle Components and SMC, have added nearly 125 jobs over the past several months.
“I had a pretty good response to that survey,” Foster said. “Most of it is expansion of existing business, which is what is going on across the country right now, and that’s positive.”
There are also some new businesses opening in Jessamine County, Foster said. Those include Intech Contracting, a Lexington-based engineering and construction company that recently opened an office in Enterprise Park; ABR Construction, which does commercial roofing and architectural sheet-metal work as well as excavating and site developments, and Ashgrove Woods, which broke ground in January 2012 on a $30 million assisted-living facility near Brannon Crossing and is expected have 150 full-time employees when completed.
In addition, a myriad of retail stores, such as Gander Mountain, an outdoor specialty store, and restaurant chains, such as Culver’s, which is planning on opening a store on Main Street, are in the process of coming into Nicholasville.
Foster said the political climate also plays a key role in job creation and unemployment rates, and things will get interesting during this presidential election year.
“As far as larger investments, companies are probably going to take a wait-and-see attitude because they want to see what’s going to happen in November,” he said. “Elections have a lot to do with companies’ attitudes about investments, so there’s a lot of waiting and seeing going on right now in that regard.”
Compared to surrounding counties, only Fayette County, with a 6.7 percent unemployment rate, fared better than Jessamine in August. Woodford County’s rate was 7.2 percent, followed by Garrard and Mercer counties, which came in at 8.7 percent; and Boyle County at 10 percent.
Fulton County, in far western Kentucky, recorded the state’s highest unemployment rate at 16.7 percent.