Kentucky’s 2024 Labor Shortage

2024 labor shortage in Kentucky, EB-3 Visa green card jobs, Strategies for addressing the 2024 labor shortage in Kentucky
The shortage of labor in Kentucky has become an increasingly pressing issue, affecting a wide range of industries and businesses throughout the state.

Kentucky, with a population of over 4 million, relies on a diverse labor force to fuel its economy, including sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare.

The state’s labor shortage challenges for employers and stunting economic growth.

There are currently only 74 available workers for every 100 open jobs.

The labor force participation rate is 57.6%, and the unemployment rate is 4.0%. The quit rate is 2.9%, and the hiring rate is 4.1%.[1]

One of the primary reasons for this labor shortage is the aging workforce, as many older workers are retiring, leaving a gap that is hard to fill with younger workers.

This trend is particularly noticeable in the manufacturing and skilled trades sectors.

The skills gap has made it challenging for employers to find qualified candidates for open positions.

Many potential workers may require more resources or opportunities to acquire the skills that employers are seeking, particularly in rural areas where educational and training infrastructure may need improvement.

The opioid crisis has also had a significant impact on the labor force in Kentucky, with substance abuse and addiction contributing to decreased workforce participation.

The economic disruptions caused by the pandemic have led to uncertainties in the job market, prompting some workers to retire early or seek other opportunities, and causing others to be hesitant to reenter the workforce due to health and safety concerns.

Industries Severely Impacted by Labor Shortage

1. Manufacturing

According to the United States Federal Reserve, the number of individuals employed in manufacturing in Kentucky was 254.90000 thousand in April of 2024.[2]

Kentucky hosts major automotive manufacturing plants, such as Ford and Toyota.

These plants rely on a sizable and skilled workforce, and labor shortages can disrupt production schedules and affect supply chains.

Other manufacturing sectors, including machinery, appliances, and consumer goods, need help recruiting skilled workers to maintain optimal production levels.

2. Healthcare

The need for nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals is significant.

In March, both the healthcare and government sectors saw a robust increase in employment, with job gains exceeding their usual monthly averages.

The healthcare sector added 72,000 jobs, while the government sector added 71,000 jobs.[3]

Shortages in these areas can result in extended patient wait times and added workloads for current staff.

Institutions that provide care for the elderly and disabled encounter challenges in recruiting an adequate workforce, which affects the quality of care and their capacity to meet demand.

3. Construction

The construction industry often needs more skilled tradespeople, such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and operators of heavy machinery.

In Kentucky, only 4.7% of workers are employed in the construction industry, ranking it as the 10th lowest in the U.S.[4]

These shortages can lead to delays in construction projects and higher costs.

The shortage of skilled tradespeople in the construction industry has been a growing concern in many regions.

Incentivizing young people to consider these trades as viable career options could help alleviate the shortage in the long term.

Here are some strategies for tackling the shortage of labor in Kentucky:

1.Employment of Overseas Workers

The EB-3 visa[5] for unskilled workers presents a viable solution to Kentucky’s labor shortage.

This employment-based, third-preference visa category is designed for workers who can fill positions that require less than two years of training or experience.

By leveraging the EB-3 visa program[6], Kentucky can tap into a global labor pool to meet its growing demand for unskilled labor in various industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and hospitality.

Employers in Kentucky can seek out employees from all corners of the world, ensuring that even the most labor-intensive and entry-level positions are filled.

This access to a global labor pool can be particularly essential for industries facing persistent labor shortages.

Promoting immigration and workforce diversity can help address labor shortages by bringing in new skills and perspectives.

Kentucky can advocate for more flexible immigration policies at the federal level to attract skilled workers from abroad.

Creating a welcoming environment for immigrants through community support programs, language training, and cultural integration initiatives can help new arrivals settle and thrive in their new communities.

Emphasizing the benefits of a diverse workforce, such as increased creativity and problem-solving abilities, can encourage businesses to embrace diversity and inclusion.

This stability can be highly advantageous for employers who dedicate time and resources to training their workforce.

Numerous industries in Kentucky encounter fluctuating labor demands based on the seasons.

The EB-3 visa program can offer a consistent supply of workers to meet these cyclical needs, guaranteeing that businesses can sustain smooth operations throughout the year.

2. Improvement of Workforce Development Programs

The Kentucky Center for Statistics, a department in the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet, reported an unemployment rate of 4.5%.[7]

Compared to the previous month, the state’s unemployment rate increased by 0.1% and rose by 0.5% from the previous year.[8]

Enhancing local workforce development programs can play a crucial role in closing the gap between available jobs and the skills of the local population.

One practical approach is to expand training and apprenticeship programs.

These programs involve collaborating with local colleges, technical schools, and industries to establish customized training initiatives that align with the current job market demands.

Another strategy is to invest in re-skilling and up-skilling initiatives.

This strategy can be achieved by offering workers grants or subsidies, enabling them to acquire new skills or enhance their existing ones.

Individuals can stay competitive and adaptable in a rapidly evolving job market through facilitating accessibility to opportunities.

Promoting STEM education is essential for preparing students for future job markets.

Encouraging schools to prioritize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education can equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive in an increasingly technology-driven workforce.

Employers should provide relocation incentives to workers considering a move to the state, including financial assistance, housing stipends, and bonuses.

They can market Kentucky’s quality of life by emphasizing its low cost of living, beautiful natural scenery, and welcoming, family-friendly communities to attract potential residents.

3. Enhancing Retention Strategies

Employers can enhance retention by providing competitive salaries and benefits that are appealing compared to other areas, fostering a positive work environment that is supportive, inclusive, and engaging, and offering career advancement opportunities through clear paths for professional development, career growth, and leadership training.

Kentucky remains one of 20 states still adhering to the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage, set in 2009.[9]

Employers can also offer a more flexible work arrangement, such as adjusted schedules.

Providing opportunities for training and upskilling can also contribute to employee satisfaction and retention.

Recognizing and rewarding employees for their hard work and achievements can foster a positive work environment and boost morale.

Open communication and a strong company culture that values diversity and inclusion are critical factors in retaining a talented workforce.

Work-life balance initiatives can play a significant role in attracting and retaining employees. Employers can introduce policies that support family life, such as paid parental leave, childcare support, and flexible working hours.

Encouraging greater participation of women in the workforce can help mitigate labor shortages. Employers can implement policies that support women’s career advancement, such as mentorship programs, leadership training, and family-friendly workplace policies.

Promoting health and wellness programs like gym memberships, mental health resources, and wellness workshops can improve employee satisfaction and productivity. By prioritizing the well-being of their workforce, Kentucky businesses can create a more loyal and motivated employee base, reducing turnover and effectively addressing labor shortages.

3. Investing in Infrastructure

Investments in transportation, such as expanding public transit and improving road networks, can make it easier for workers to commute to job centers.

There are 1,013 bridges and more than 963 miles of highway in need of repair. Access to high-speed internet is crucial for Americans to work, engage in education, receive healthcare, and stay in touch.

Over 259,258 residences and small enterprises in Kentucky lack access to high-speed internet infrastructure.[10]

Enhancing digital infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, can attract tech-savvy workers.

Reliable and affordable housing is also crucial, as it enables workers to live near their places of employment.

By creating a well-connected and livable environment, Kentucky can attract and retain a vibrant workforce.

Upgraded roads, bridges, and public transportation systems make it easier for businesses to transport goods and services, thereby attracting new businesses to the state.

High-speed internet and advanced communication infrastructure enable businesses to operate efficiently and attract tech companies.

Better healthcare facilities and safe, modern infrastructure improve residents’ quality of life, making the state more attractive to potential workers.

Upgraded schools and educational facilities prepare a skilled workforce, attracting families and ensuring a steady stream of qualified workers.

4. Addressing Barriers to Employment

Identifying and addressing barriers to employment is essential for maximizing workforce participation.

Example of addressing barriers includes providing support for individuals with criminal records through reentry programs that offer job training, counseling, and placement services.

It’s crucial to provide reentry support, especially with the return of around 12,821 individuals to Kentucky from prison.

It is expected that at least 95% of individuals in Kentucky prisons will eventually reintegrate into the community.[11]

Removing unnecessary occupational licensing barriers can also open up job opportunities for many workers.

For those with disabilities, ensuring workplace accessibility and offering reasonable accommodations can make a significant difference.

Addressing systemic issues such as housing instability and lack of affordable childcare can help more individuals enter and remain in the workforce.

5. Enhancing Employer Branding and Recruitment Efforts

A strong employer brand can attract top talent and differentiate businesses in a competitive job market.

When considering a job opportunity, 75% of job seekers take into account the employer’s brand. Fifty-five percent (55%) of leaders in recruitment actively work on employer branding.

Seventy-two percent (72%) of recruitment leaders believe employer branding plays a significant role in attracting new employees.[12]

Companies can enhance their employer branding by showcasing their unique culture, values, and benefits through social media, company websites, and recruitment marketing campaigns.

Highlighting success stories of current employees, offering virtual tours of the workplace, and engaging with potential candidates through online forums and webinars can also strengthen the employer brand.

Recruitment efforts can be further enhanced by partnering with local universities, attending career fairs, and leveraging professional networks to reach a wider audience of job seekers.

2024 labor shortage in Kentucky, EB-3 Visa green card jobs, Strategies for addressing the 2024 labor shortage in Kentucky

The labor shortage in Kentucky has significantly impacted industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, and construction.

Strategies such as leveraging the EB-3 visa program for unskilled workers and improving workforce development programs can play a vital role in bridging the gap between available jobs and the skills of the local population.

Promoting immigration through EB-3 visa program, diversifying the workforce, and enhancing technical education can contribute to long-term solutions for tackling the labor shortage in Kentucky’s industries.


[1] US Chamber of Commerce. “Understanding Kentucky’s Labor Market”.

2 Trading Economics.

3 Casey Quinlan. Kentucky Lantern. “March jobs report shows strong labor market with job gains in health care and government”.

4 Nappalachian News-Express: The Conscience of Eastern Kentucky. “The Construction Industry Employs Just 4.7% of Kentucky Workers, 10th Lowest in the U.S.”.

5 EB3.Work.

6 USCIS. “Employment-Based Immigration: Third Preference EB-3”.

7 Olivia Doyle. “March 2024 report shows Kentucky unemployment up slightly”.

8 Id.

9 Vanessa Gallman. Kentucky Lantern. “Left behind, Kentucky clings to outdated policy that devalues citizens, diminishes competitiveness”.

10 Investing in America.

11 Kaylee Raymer. “The 2024 Kentucky General Assembly Was the Most Regressive for Criminal Legal System Policies in Recent Memory”.

12 Apollo Technical.

2024 labor shortage in Kentucky, EB-3 Visa green card jobs, Strategies for addressing the 2024 labor shortage in Kentucky