The state has released unemployment data for the end of May 2020 and as businesses closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic reopen, the data shows the rate dropping.

At the end of April, Hopkins County unemployment was sitting at 20.3%. By the end of May, the figure has dropped to 13.4%.

“I think what we’re seeing in the community is people opening back up,” said Ray Hagerman, president of the Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation.

The larger employers are trying to get back to opening full-force, while the smaller service- and retail-related industries are opening at a slower rate, he added. That could be because some businesses, including restaurants, have been open at a smaller capacity and aren’t making enough profit to bring back as many employees as larger businesses can afford.

Hagerman said he doesn’t think the unemployment numbers will get close to normal until businesses open all the way up.

“The sad truth is, we may see some of these smaller mom-and-pop businesses close,” he said. “We are gonna have small businesses that just don’t open up.”

Statewide, the unemployment rate dropped from 16.2% to 10.9%. Caldwell was at 8.5% and Webster sits at 9.6%. Christian and Muhlenberg counties are at 12.2% and 11.9% respectively.

Carlisle County recorded the lowest jobless rate in the commonwealth at 5.4%. It was followed by Clinton County, 6.4%; Hickman County, 6.5%; Lyon County, 6.7%; Monroe County, 6.8%; Pendleton County, 7.2%; Todd and Woodford counties, 7.4%t each; Crittenden County, 7.5%; and Robertson County, 7.6%.

Magoffin County recorded the state’s highest unemployment rate at 20.5%.

“Unemployment statistics are based on estimates and are compiled to measure trends rather than actually to count people working. Civilian labor force statistics include non-military workers and unemployed Kentuckians who are actively seeking work,” said the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. “They do not include unemployed Kentuckians who have not looked for employment within the past four weeks. The data should only be compared to the same month in previous years.”

The state unemployment rate at the end of May 2019 was 4.3%, while Hopkins County’s was 4.5%.

But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the changes in unemployment month to month will allow economic strategists to compare government openings with the rate.

Many employees who have been laid off due to COVID-19 closures have received unemployment and extra funds. Those employees may have been receiving the same amount of or more money as they would have working full-time. That situation makes it difficult for those employees to seek employment elsewhere or want to return to their jobs.

Hagerman said he doesn’t blame people for feeling that way and for wanting to do what’s best for their families. But having unemployment set up that way is a “disincentive” and creates an interesting conversation between employers and employees.

It’s much more difficult now for employers to call back employees to come back full-force. He suggest employers be careful and understanding of the employees and help them ease back into the workforce because “you don’t want to lose some of your best people.”

Many employers in Hopkins County are seeking employees and are struggling to fill their workforce.

“It’s reality and that’s why unemployment is so high,” Hagerman said.

The Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation has a one-stop shop job page: HopkinsCoKYjobs.com. The site is updated late in the workweek, but Hagerman said there are well over 300 jobs available.

Economic development and its website have partnered with various programs to offer a free virtual workshop for those looking for jobs.

In conjunction with the West Kentucky Workforce Board, Kentucky Career Center JobNet and the Ready to Work program at Madisonville Community College, the seminar, Power Your Job Search With Google Tools, will be from 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday, July 2. The seminar aims to help job seekers learn digital skills, according to a news release from economic development. Dave Delaney, a Grow with Google trainer, will host the session.

For more information, contact Melanie Tapp with Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development at 270-821-1939 or mtapp@westcentralky.com.

In addition to the workshop and websites available, the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System are training workforce employees at the colleges. Mike Davenport, Candace McPherson and Britney Mitchell from Madisonville Community College will attend the Talent Pipeline Management Academy.

“Kentucky was designated in 2018 as one of three states in the country to implement the TPM Academies,” according to a news release from the chamber workforce center. “... The Workforce Center’s Talent Pipeline team and the newly-graduated KCTCS TPM Champions selected will focus on creating workforce solutions that address the unique workforce challenges present in a Post-COVID world while creating the workforce needed for economic recovery and growth.”

The academy will help the three Madisonville representatives find the talents and skills needed to fill openings in the workforce, as well as create a way to get local residents those talents and skills, the release states.

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