Counties with the highest unemployment in Kentucky

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February 9, 2024
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Counties with the highest unemployment in Kentucky

While today's unemployment rates are significantly lower than the COVID-19 pandemic peak of 14.7% experienced in April 2020, the fear of job losses remains as workers stare down an uncertain economic future.

Experts are mixed in their views of a potential recession. The return of student loan payments, continually high gas prices, persistent inflation, and insurance price escalations are just a few of the factors that could limit consumer spending and potentially prompt another recession. The last economic recession before the pandemic—the Great Recession of 2007-09—sent unemployment rates up to 10% as of October 2009, and a full recovery took years.

But as of January 2024, the national unemployment rate remains relatively low at 3.7%—unchanged from the previous month and up slightly from January 2023. Regional and state employment varies widely depending on local economies. Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates by state demonstrate a rather sizable spectrum, ranging from just 1.9% in Maryland to 5.4% in Nevada.

Stacker compiled a list of counties with the highest unemployment rates in Kentucky using Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Counties are ranked by their preliminary unemployment rate in December 2023, with initial ties broken by the number of unemployed people within that county, though some ties may remain. County unemployment rates are released about a month behind the national numbers. County-level unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.

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#50. Montgomery County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.3%
--- 1-month change: No change
--- 1-year change: Up 0.4 percentage points
- Total labor force: 11,921 people (517 unemployed)

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#49. Hickman County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.4%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 1.0 percentage points
- Total labor force: 1,577 people (69 unemployed)

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Tracy Burroughs Brown // Shutterstock

#48. Butler County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.4%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 1.0 percentage points
- Total labor force: 5,027 people (219 unemployed)

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Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#47. Whitley County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.4%
--- 1-month change: No change
--- 1-year change: Up 0.8 percentage points
- Total labor force: 14,158 people (619 unemployed)

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#46. Metcalfe County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.5%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.4 percentage points
- Total labor force: 3,771 people (168 unemployed)

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Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

#45. Edmonson County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.6%
--- 1-month change: No change
--- 1-year change: Up 0.5 percentage points
- Total labor force: 4,770 people (220 unemployed)

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#44. Fleming County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.6%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.6 percentage points
- Total labor force: 6,124 people (280 unemployed)

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#43. Breckinridge County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.6%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.7 percentage points
- Total labor force: 7,802 people (361 unemployed)

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#42. Clinton County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.7%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.3 percentage points
- Total labor force: 3,391 people (158 unemployed)

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#41. Livingston County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.7%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.5 percentage points
- Total labor force: 3,725 people (175 unemployed)

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#40. Estill County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.7%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.6 percentage points
- Total labor force: 5,068 people (239 unemployed)

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#39. Adair County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.7%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.4 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.6 percentage points
- Total labor force: 6,959 people (326 unemployed)

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#38. Lincoln County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.7%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.2 percentage points
- Total labor force: 9,397 people (443 unemployed)

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#37. Robertson County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.8%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 1.1 percentage points
- Total labor force: 829 people (40 unemployed)

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#36. Christian County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.7%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.4 percentage points
- Total labor force: 24,391 people (1,136 unemployed)

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#35. Pulaski County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 4.7%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.7 percentage points
- Total labor force: 24,976 people (1,173 unemployed)

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Gabriel Quiles // Shutterstock

#34. Russell County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.0%
--- 1-month change: Down 1.8 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.2 percentage points
- Total labor force: 6,211 people (313 unemployed)

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#33. Wayne County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.0%
--- 1-month change: No change
--- 1-year change: Up 0.6 percentage points
- Total labor force: 6,732 people (335 unemployed)

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#32. Bath County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.1%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.4 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.6 percentage points
- Total labor force: 4,692 people (240 unemployed)

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#31. Mason County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.1%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.4 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.6 percentage points
- Total labor force: 6,483 people (328 unemployed)

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Rosemarie Mosteller // Shutterstock

#30. Boyd County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.1%
--- 1-month change: No change
--- 1-year change: Up 0.1 percentage points
- Total labor force: 17,062 people (874 unemployed)

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#29. Bell County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.3%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.7 percentage points
- Total labor force: 8,143 people (428 unemployed)

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ScottymanPhoto // Shutterstock

#28. Rowan County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.3%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.3 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 1.5 percentage points
- Total labor force: 10,331 people (546 unemployed)

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#27. Pike County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.3%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.9 percentage points
- Total labor force: 18,727 people (991 unemployed)

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#26. Jackson County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.4%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.8 percentage points
- Total labor force: 4,080 people (219 unemployed)

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#25. McCreary County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.4%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.9 percentage points
- Total labor force: 4,841 people (262 unemployed)

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#24. Perry County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.4%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 1.1 percentage points
- Total labor force: 7,956 people (430 unemployed)

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#23. Knox County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.4%
--- 1-month change: No change
--- 1-year change: Up 0.7 percentage points
- Total labor force: 10,099 people (545 unemployed)

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#22. Lee County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.5%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.3 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.8 percentage points
- Total labor force: 1,989 people (109 unemployed)

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#21. Floyd County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.5%
--- 1-month change: No change
--- 1-year change: Up 0.4 percentage points
- Total labor force: 10,885 people (594 unemployed)

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#20. Morgan County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.6%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.6 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.8 percentage points
- Total labor force: 4,028 people (224 unemployed)

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#19. Wolfe County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.7%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.5 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Down 0.1 percentage points
- Total labor force: 2,220 people (127 unemployed)

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#18. Lawrence County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.7%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.7 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.7 percentage points
- Total labor force: 5,760 people (328 unemployed)

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#17. Ohio County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.7%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 1.2 percentage points
- Total labor force: 8,863 people (501 unemployed)

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#16. Muhlenberg County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.7%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.5 percentage points
- Total labor force: 9,744 people (555 unemployed)

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#15. Menifee County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.9%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.5 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.9 percentage points
- Total labor force: 2,391 people (142 unemployed)

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#14. Letcher County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.9%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: No change
- Total labor force: 5,661 people (335 unemployed)

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#13. Harlan County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 5.9%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.3 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.7 percentage points
- Total labor force: 6,459 people (379 unemployed)

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#12. Clay County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 6.1%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 1.2 percentage points
- Total labor force: 4,955 people (304 unemployed)

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#11. Knott County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 6.2%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 1.0 percentage points
- Total labor force: 4,236 people (264 unemployed)

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#10. Johnson County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 6.3%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.4 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.9 percentage points
- Total labor force: 6,597 people (415 unemployed)

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Marked Imagery // Shutterstock

#9. Greenup County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 6.3%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.5 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.4 percentage points
- Total labor force: 12,903 people (814 unemployed)

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#8. Leslie County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 6.4%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.3 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.5 percentage points
- Total labor force: 2,488 people (160 unemployed)

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#7. Owsley County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 6.6%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.4 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.5 percentage points
- Total labor force: 1,018 people (67 unemployed)

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#6. Breathitt County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 7.1%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.1 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 1.3 percentage points
- Total labor force: 3,085 people (219 unemployed)

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#5. Carter County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 7.2%
--- 1-month change: Up 1.0 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.1 percentage points
- Total labor force: 9,550 people (692 unemployed)

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#4. Lewis County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 8.0%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.8 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.6 percentage points
- Total labor force: 4,520 people (361 unemployed)

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#3. Elliott County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 8.2%
--- 1-month change: Up 1.0 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.3 percentage points
- Total labor force: 1,869 people (153 unemployed)

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#2. Martin County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 8.2%
--- 1-month change: Down 0.2 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 1.9 percentage points
- Total labor force: 2,051 people (169 unemployed)

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#1. Magoffin County

- December unemployment rate (preliminary): 9.0%
--- 1-month change: Up 0.6 percentage points
--- 1-year change: Up 0.1 percentage points
- Total labor force: 3,212 people (288 unemployed)

This story features data reporting by Paxtyn Merten and is part of a series utilizing data automation across 50 states.

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