Owensboro’s lower unemployment stats: a closer look


OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) – While most of the country is seeing higher unemployment compared to last summer, Owensboro is going against the trend. It is the only metropolitan area in the U.S. to show a lower unemployment rate last month compared to June of last year.

Outside Packaging Unlimited on Grimes Avenue, you can see several now hiring signs on the ground. The company started hiring for more than 150 workers this month. Employers and city officials say there are several reasons why Owensboro’s rate lowered compared to last June while others went up.

“We’ve had three drive-thru job fairs, all of them have been very successful,” said Karen Wilhite of Hire Dynamics, who has helped Packaging Unlimited hire more than half of the 150 job openings.

“We’re here to make sure their peak season is fulfilled and to carry out that relationship forward,”she said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Owensboro’s unemployment rate for June of 2020 was 4.2%, compared to 4.4% in June of last year. Wilhite believes it’s a sign the job market is starting to recover.

Labor statistics: Owensboro only metro area with lower unemployment than June 2019

“There’s been a lot of change going on since COVID started, but people are ready to go back to work,” she said. The same report showed Evansville’s unemployment rate was at more than 9% for last month, compared to more than 3% last June. Bowling Green’s was .4% higher, and Louisville’s was more than 2% higher than June, 2019. Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson says one reason is the city’s not dependent on one industry or company.

“It just did not affect us like some communities that rely on one large corporation to carry the load for them,” said Mayor Watson.

Wilhite says with some businesses entering their peak season, their rate could stay below what it was last year.

“It’s a lot of essential business that is going to have more business coming in than what they’re used to because of e-commerce, because e-commerce keeps ticking,” she explained.

Wilhite adds how a possible second stimulus bill being debated right now in congress could make an impact in how the job market is shaped in the coming months.

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(This story was originally published on July 30, 2020) 

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