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

Kentucky is one of the states that heavily relies on the coal industry, which has been declining for decades due to environmental regulations, competition from natural gas and renewable energy, and automation. President Trump promised to revive the coal sector and bring back jobs, but how has the state’s job market fared since he was elected in 2016?

Coal Jobs Have Not Increased Significantly

According to a report by the Lexington Herald-Leader, the state of Kentucky had about 6,550 coal employees when Trump took office in January 2017. By September 2018, the number had increased slightly to 6,650, but it was still far below the peak of 18,000 in 2011. The report also noted that coal production in Kentucky had dropped by 16 percent from 2016 to 2018, and that the state had lost its rank as the third-largest coal producer in the nation to Illinois.

The coal industry has faced several challenges in the past few years, such as the bankruptcy of major coal companies, the closure of coal-fired power plants, the trade war with China, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations and provide subsidies to coal plants, the market forces have not been favorable for coal. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation fell from 30 percent in 2016 to 19 percent in 2020, while natural gas and renewables increased their shares.

Other Sectors Have Shown Growth

While coal has been struggling, other sectors of Kentucky’s economy have shown growth and resilience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s total nonfarm employment increased by 5.4 percent from January 2017 to December 2020, slightly higher than the national average of 4.9 percent. The sectors that added the most jobs in Kentucky were education and health services, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality.

The state’s unemployment rate also improved from 5.1 percent in January 2017 to 4.3 percent in December 2020, lower than the national average of 6.7 percent. However, the labor force participation rate, which measures the share of working-age people who are employed or looking for work, declined from 59.2 percent to 57.8 percent in the same period, indicating that some people may have dropped out of the labor market.


The job market in Kentucky has not seen a major change since Trump was elected, despite his promises to revive the coal industry. Coal jobs have not increased significantly, and coal production has continued to decline. Other sectors of the economy have shown growth and resilience, but the labor force participation rate has also fallen. The state’s economic outlook will depend on how it adapts to the changing energy landscape and diversifies its industries.

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