KENTUCKY (WEHT) – Governor Beshear announced the lowest unemployment rates in state history during his Team Kentucky update on April 20. During the press conference, he also discussed decreases in overdose deaths, a wildfire at Natural Bridge State Resort Park, the state’s responses to severe weather and announced this week’s Team Kentucky All-Star.

Here are the highlights from the April 20 Team Kentucky update.

Unemployment rates

Governor Beshear announced that Kentucky has set the record for the longest period with the lowest unemployment rates in state history. Over the past 15 months, the rate has been between 3.8%, the lowest rate ever recorded, and 4%. Kentucky achieved a 3.8% unemployment rate during four months since the beginning of 2022.

The governor also announced that Kentucky has seen a 2.3% job growth over pre-pandemic levels, with nearly 46,000 more jobs in Kentucky than in February 2020.

“We have been at or below the lowest unemployment rates in Kentucky’s history since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking it in 1976,” Gov. Beshear said. “Kentucky is emerging as a top 10 economy, and I want to thank our hard-working Kentucky families and all of the businesses that are betting their futures on our great state. Today’s news is more proof of what can achieve when we all work together on Team Kentucky.”

2022 overdose report

Beshear announced a 5% decrease in overdose deaths in the state, the first decrease in Kentucky in four years.

“While a 5% decrease in overdose deaths is encouraging, let’s not forget that there are still thousands of people who are struggling and need our help,” said Gov. Beshear. “We owe it to them and to future generations of Kentuckians to continue attacking this problem head on with everything we’ve got. I promise to be there every step of the way.”

Natural Bridge State Resort Park wildfire

According to a release from the governor’s office, a wildfire at Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Slade began late Monday and nearly 100 firefighters from the Kentucky Division of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, Daniel Boone National Forest and local fire departments are using multiple engines and aerial resources to control the fire.

The governor says winds pushed the fire over containment lines into more than 100 acres in the last day and into Daniel Boone National Forest land. Beshear says once the fire is contained and the spread is stopped, fire crews will control the fire by extinguishing the any smoldering material and reinforcing control lines.

All park trailheads and parking lots, except for the lodge lot, are closed to the public and guests staying in cottages have been relocated to the lodge.

March storms and eastern Kentucky flood update

Governor Beshear says the state is finalizing joint damage assessments in over a dozen counties for localized storms that took place on March 3. Kentucky Emergency Management will request that 10 counties be added to the 76 included in the federal declaration President Joe Biden approved on April 10. The counties include Boyle, Clinton, Fayette, Henderson, McCreary, Mercer, Pulaski, Russell, Wayne and Woodford.

The governor also provided an update on the recovery and rebuilding efforts in eastern Kentucky, Currently, 141 families are housed in travel trailers and Kentucky State Parks are now housing 16 people, down from the 360 people sheltered on September 1, 2022.

FEMA has approved more than $104.9 million in Individual Assistance grants. Since April 13, an additional five applicants have received the max grant of $37,900, bringing the total Housing Assistance max grants to $26 million for 702 survivors.

Team Kentucky All-Stars

Governor Beshear named Silas House as this week’s Team Kentucky All-Star. The governor announced the Laurel County native and award-winning author was named the 2023-24 Kentucky Poet Laureate. House is a nationally bestselling author of several novels. Among his many awards are the Nautilus Award, an E.B. White Award, Appalachian Book of the Year, the New York Public Library and NAV Foundation’s Storyline Prize and the Lee Smith Award.