Now hiring? Not quite yet

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Number of unemployed more than doubled in one year

By Stephen Lega

In June of 2008, 6.3 percent, or 678 people, were considered unemployed in Marion County. By June of 2009, both of those figures had more than doubled.

More than 1,400 Marion Countians were considered unemployed as of June, which is 13.2 percent of the workforce, according to statistics available through Workforce Kentucky. The state unemployment rate for June was 11.1 percent.

July figures are not yet available.

"It's hard to believe our unemployment rates are that high," said Tom Lund, Marion County Economic Development director.

Lund added that some local factories have started working longer hours again.

"But they are not really hiring more people," he said.

Marion County's unemployment rate has been over 10 percent since January. It reached 13 percent in May before reaching 13.2 percent in June.

The last time Marion County's unemployment rate was 13 percent or higher for consecutive months was January (13.3 percent) and February (13.7 percent) of 1994.

"The economic slowdown is going to last probably for an extended period of time," Lund said.

President Barack Obama made similar comments during his Aug. 1 weekly address, which is posted on YouTube.

"It will take many more months to get ourselves out of a recession," he said during that address.

Obama added that recent economic measures indicated a growth in the Gross Domestic Product in recent months. He said that is a good sign even if it has not yet led to more jobs.

"History has shown that we have to have economic growth before we can have job growth," Obama said during his address.

He continued to say that the new economic data was a sign that it is moving in the right direction.

The national employment rate was 9.7 percent in June.

Across Kentucky, Fayette County had the lowest unemployment rate at 8.5 percent in June, and Magoffin County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 18.8 percent.

Marion County's unemployment rate is higher than the 12.1 percent unemployment within the Lincoln Trail Area Development District.

The highest employment rate in the Lincoln Trail area is 14.1 percent in Grayson County, and the lowest rate in the area is 10.7 percent in Hardin County.

And Marion County's unemployment will also be affected by the recent closing of Brady Built Technologies.

Lund confirmed that Brady Built has closed. Brady Built had 25 employees as of December, according to the 2009 Lebanon and Marion County publication produced by the Marion County Industrial Foundation.

Attempts to reach Joe Brady, who is identified as the owner and CEO of Brady Built on the company's website, were not successful. (Two phone numbers led to recordings saying they had been disconnected, and a third number went unanswered.)

  Positive notes   Not all the local economic news is bad, however.

The Marion County Board of Education recently approved a $5.015 million bid from Isaac Tatum Construction to move forward with the additions and renovations to the Marion County Area Technology Center.

The tech center project will include renovating 37,000 square feet of the existing building, together with a full mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrade, as well as window replacements and ADA upgrades. It will also include adding on approximately 10,000 square feet of classroom and lab space, as well as restrooms, to the facility.

According to Lund, this is a necessary step to recruit new industry and retain industries already in the county.

"I sound like a broken record when I talk about it. That's our No. 1 priority at the Marion County Industrial Foundation," Lund said.

He added that he hopes the state will appropriate more money for technical education in the future.

Laura Arnold, the tech center principal, said the renovation project will provide multiple benefits for students and the community.

The additional classroom space will mean more students can participate in the programs. As an example, she said the tech center has 12 booths in its welding lab. After the expansion is complete, the center will have 20 booths.

Tech center students can study in automotive, carpentry, health sciences, industrial maintenance, information technology, machine tool and welding programs. Arnold said the tech center may be able to offer additional programs as the available space increases.

The expansion and renovation will also help create a "21st century learning center," Arnold said.

The expansion will benefit local industry as well, according to Arnold, since the center will continue to be available for training in the evenings.

A pre-construction meeting is planned for today, she said.

"We're excited and ready to get things rolling," Arnold said.

On the industrial side, AAR Summa Technologies recently received tax incentives from the Lebanon City Council and the Marion County Fiscal Court to help with a planned expansion project.

And Fuel Total Systems continues to build its facility on Corporate Drive, near TG Kentucky. Lund said Fuel Total Systems is on target to open next year.

He added that the industrial foundation continues to stay in touch with industries about more plants and expansions, but none of them have been designated as prospects at this time.

"We've got a long way to go yet," Lund said.   June unemployment rates

United States     9.7 percent

         adjusted     9.5 percent   Kentucky          11.1 percent       adjusted     10.9 percent  

Lincoln Trail ADD     12.1 percent

Marion County          13.2 percent  

Employment trends in Marion County (June 2008 to June 2009)

Month     Employed      Unemployed     Unemployment rate

June 08     10,017          678                    6.3 July 08         9,964          685                    6.4 August 08    9,795         740                     7.0 Sept. 08       9,740          682                     6.5 Oct. 08          9,813         686                     6.5 Nov. 08         9,762         698                     6.7 Dec. 08         9,696         830                     7.9 Jan. 09          9,503        1,117                  10.5 Feb. 09          9,432        1,386                  12.8 March 09       9,551        1,475                  13.4 April 09          9,593        1,334                   12.2 May 09           9,527        1,429                   13.0 June 09          9,643        1,465                   13.2