FRANKFORT - Kentucky added more than 3,500 jobs in April as the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent - but a new report from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce says those are mostly low-paying jobs replacing high-paying ones.
University of Louisville economist Paul Coomes said Kentucky's average annual pay is $46,000 compared to the national average of $55,600. Kentucky's average pay has not increased in eight years. The state is tied with West Virginia for the lowest pay per job among the seven states that border Kentucky.
Kentucky lost 104,000 jobs during the recession, Coomes said, and has added 65,000 jobs during the recovery period. Almost all of those jobs have been in low-wage industries including temporary jobs, educational services, restaurants, nursing, transportation and warehousing. The biggest job losses have come in construction and coal mining, two industries that pay above average wages.
"We've not kept up with the national growth in (the technology) sector, which is sort of your brain part of the economy," Coomes said. "It looks like we're about 16 percent below the national average in pay per job and really not making any gains."
Candidates in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, among the most competitive and closely watched races in the country, disagree on how to fix this. Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. But Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell says that would hurt the economy.
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