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Press Release

Lexington’s labor market is strong, but the metro area’s economy is showing some signs of stress, say Cleveland Fed researchers

Following a fairly sizeable drop during 2017, the unemployment rate in the Lexington metro area crept up during the first half of 2018, according to Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland researchers Guhan Venkatu and Julianne Dunn. “Nevertheless, the unemployment rate remained low at 3.5 percent in June,” say the researchers, “lower than in Kentucky (4.2 percent) and in the United States as a whole (4.0 percent).”

While total employment in the Lexington metro area grew about 1.0 percent in the 12 months leading up to December 2017, the researchers note that several sectors experienced employment declines: construction, professional and business services, manufacturing, and financial activities.

Meanwhile, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector and the government sector saw large gains, with each sector adding about 1,500 jobs. “Nearly one in five people in the Lexington metro area works in trade, transportation, and utilities,” note Venkatu and Dunn, “and more than half of these jobs—about 30,000 of the almost 55,000 total—are in retail and wholesale trade.”

Home price growth slowed in the Lexington metro area and in Kentucky but remains robust, according to the researchers, who say that home prices rose 6.8 percent and 6.1 percent, in the metro area and the state, respectively, between June 2017 and June 2018, compared to an 8.3 percent increase in home prices for the US as a whole.

While the issuance of residential building permits in the Lexington metro area has remained relatively steady, the researchers note that in the metro area—as well as in the state and the nation—permit levels are below where they were at the start of the Great Recession.

For more of Venkatu and Dunn’s insights on economic conditions in the Lexington area, see our latest Lexington Metro Mix.

And browse through our Region, for data, maps, research, and other information related to the diverse economies and communities in the region served by the Cleveland Fed: Ohio, eastern Kentucky, western Pennsylvania, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.455.4479