Kentucky Association of Counties

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Kentucky Association of Counties


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Private and public sector employment in Kentucky counties

View data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The employment landscape in Kentucky reflects a diverse mix of private sector and government employment, which varies significantly across different counties. Understanding these variations provides valuable insights into the state's economic structure and labor market dynamics.

National overview

As of December 2023, total covered employment in the United States stood at 154.9 million. Of this total, 85% was attributed to the private sector while 15% was government employment, with the breakdown being 2% federal, 3% state, and 10% local. Notably, a significant portion of local government employment nationally (62.4%) is concentrated in the education and health services sectors.

Employment in Kentucky

Kentucky's employment distribution closely mirrors the national figures. Private sector employment constitutes 85% of the total while the public sector accounts for 15%. However, Kentucky has some slight differences: local government employment is slightly lower at 9% compared to the national 10%, and federal government employment is marginally less at 1.8% versus 2% nationally. Conversely, state government employment is somewhat higher at 4.2% compared to the national average of 3%. Similar to national trends, the majority of local government employment in Kentucky is within the education and health services sectors, comprising 67%.

State comparisons

In every state, private sector employment made up at least 75% of total employment in December 2023. Alaska had the highest percentage of public sector employment at 25% while Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Florida had the lowest, each at around 11%. States with the largest share of local government employment included Wyoming (16.7%), Oklahoma (13.2%), and Alaska (12.8%). Conversely, Hawaii (2.9%), Delaware (6.4%), and Rhode Island (6.4%) had the smallest percentages of local government employment.

County-level insights

Within Kentucky, the proportion of employment in the government sector varies dramatically by county. For instance, Boone County has the lowest government employment at 6.6%, followed by Scott County at 8.7%, and Jefferson County at 9.1%. On the higher end, Elliott County has the highest at 65.9%, Robertson County at 52.4%, and Martin County at 46.7%.

Local government employment as a percentage of total employment also shows significant variation. Boone (5.1%), Jefferson (5.4%), and Fayette (6.1%) have the lowest levels whereas Robertson (39.8%), Owen (32.9%), and Owsley (31.2%) have the highest.

When examining federal government employment, Martin County (20.3%), McCreary County (16.9%), and Edmonson County (11.7%) lead the way. For state government employment, Elliott County (35.2%), Franklin County (29.3%), and Lyon County (19.4%) have the highest percentages.

For detailed data on employment across all Kentucky counties, you can download the dataset here.

Data source and notes

The data presented here are sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). The QCEW provides a comprehensive tabulation of data on the number of establishments, monthly employment, and quarterly wages for workers covered by state unemployment insurance (UI) laws and federal workers covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program.

QCEW monthly employment data represent the number of covered workers who worked during, or received pay for, the pay period that included the 12th day of the month. Covered employees include most corporate officials, executives, supervisory personnel, professionals, clerical workers, many farmworkers, wage earners, piece workers, and part-time workers. Workers on paid sick leave, paid holidays, paid vacations, and similar statuses are also included. Federal employment data are based on reports submitted quarterly to state agencies, with certain national security agencies excluded for security reasons.


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