How Kentucky’s Job Market Has Fared Since Trump Was Elected


Kentucky is among the states that mostly depends on the coal sector, which has been in decline for decades as a result of automation, natural gas and renewable energy competition, and environmental legislation. After winning election in 2016, President Trump pledged to revitalize the coal industry and create jobs. However, how has the state’s job market performed?

Coal Jobs Have Not Increased Significantly

In January 2017, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that around 6,550 coal workers worked in Kentucky when President Trump assumed office. Although the number had somewhat increased to 6,650 by September 2018, it was still significantly below than the record of 18,000 in 2011. The study also showed that Kentucky’s coal output fell by sixteen percent between 2016 and 2018, and Illinois overtook Kentucky as the country’s third-largest coal producer.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the trade conflict with China, the bankruptcy of significant coal corporations, and the closing of coal-fired power facilities are only a few of the difficulties the coal sector has experienced recently. Even with Trump’s attempts to relax environmental laws and provide coal-fired power facilities subsidies, the coal industry has not been helped by market forces. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that although natural gas and renewable energy sources increased, coal’s proportion of the country’s electricity output decreased from 30% in 2016 to 19% in 2020.

Other Sectors Have Shown Growth

Other areas of Kentucky’s economy have grown and persevered, despite coal’s difficulties. The state’s total nonfarm employment expanded by 5.4 percent between January 2017 and December 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth was somewhat greater than the 4.9 percent national average. In Kentucky, the industries with the biggest job growth were leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and education and health services.

Additionally, the state’s unemployment rate decreased, falling short of the 6.7 percent national average from 5.1 percent in January 2017 to 4.3 percent in December 2020. However, the percentage of working-age individuals who are employed or searching for work, known as the labor force participation rate, decreased from 59.2 to 57.8 percent over that time, suggesting that some individuals may have left the labor force.


Despite Trump’s pledges to revitalize the coal sector, Kentucky’s job market has not experienced a significant shift since his election. Both the number of coal employment and the amount produced have decreased substantially. Although there has been development and resilience in other economic areas, the labor force participation rate has also decreased. The state’s ability to diversify its sectors and adjust to the shifting energy landscape will determine how prosperous it becomes economically.

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