Strategic Solutions for Kentucky’s 2024 Labor Shortage

2024 labor shortage solutions in Kentucky, EB-3 Visa green card jobs, strategic solutions for kentuckys 2024 labor shortage

The labor shortage in Kentucky has become a growing concern in recent years, impacting various industries and businesses across the state.

With a population of over 4 million, Kentucky relies on a diverse workforce to support its economy, including agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, and other sectors.

The state must grapple with a shortage of skilled workers, creating challenges for employers and hindering economic growth.

There is currently a ratio of 74 available workers for every 100 open jobs.

The state’s Worker Shortage Index reveals 111,000 job openings and 82,001 unemployed workers.

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 the labor shortage in Kentucky is the aging workforce.

Many of the state’s industries are experiencing a demographic shift as older workers retire, creating a void that is difficult to fill with younger workers.

This is particularly evident in manufacturing and skilled trades, where experienced workers leave the workforce faster than new workers.

While some individuals seeking employment may need more skills and training for the available job opportunities, this skills gap has led to employers not finding qualified candidates to fill open positions, further exacerbating the labor shortage.

Many potential workers may need more resources or opportunities to acquire the skills employers demand.

This issue is particularly prevalent in rural areas of the state, where educational and training infrastructure may need to be improved.

The opioid crisis has had a significant impact on the labor force in Kentucky.

Substance abuse and addiction have led to decreased workforce participation, as individuals struggling with addiction may be unable to maintain employment or seek out new job opportunities.

The economic disruptions caused by the pandemic, including layoffs, business closures, and changes in consumer behavior, have led to uncertainty in the job market.

Some workers have opted to retire early or pursue other opportunities, while others remain hesitant to reenter the workforce due to health and safety concerns.

Investing in workforce development programs and initiatives that provide training and upskilling opportunities for workers is essential to bridge the skills gap and meet the demands of employers.

Marketing the benefits of living and working in Kentucky and highlighting career advancement opportunities and quality of life can help attract talent from within and outside the state.

Supporting and incentivizing businesses to provide on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and mentorship programs can contribute to developing a skilled workforce.

Focusing on improving access to education and vocational training, particularly in rural and underserved areas, can help equip individuals with the necessary skills to fill the available job openings.

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

1.Employment of Overseas Workers

The EB-3 visa[2] 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[3], 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.

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%.[4]

Compared to the previous month, the state’s unemployment rate increased by 0.1% and rose by 0.5% from the previous year.[5]

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

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, initial unemployment benefit applications in Kentucky decreased last week compared to the previous week.

The number of new jobless claims, which indicates layoffs, dropped to 1,488 for the week ending May 25, down from 1,515 the previous week.[6]

On a seasonally adjusted basis, U.S. unemployment claims increased to 219,000 last week, up by 3,000 claims from the previous week, when there were 216,000 claims.[7]

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.

Employers can 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.

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. Strengthening Local Workforce Development

There were $35 million in local appropriations in Kentucky, none of which were directed toward two-year institutions.[8]

The state allocates 61.7% of all funding for this cause.[9]

Kentucky allocates 12.2% of all funds for research, agriculture, and medical (RAM) purposes, which is higher than the average allocation for this category.[10]

The state can equip its residents with the necessary skills to meet the evolving demands of the job market by expanding vocational and technical training programs.

Partnerships with community colleges and universities can create customized curricula that align with industry needs, fulfilling the market’s demands.

Providing incentives for businesses to offer apprenticeships and internships can further enhance the practical skills of the workforce.

These initiatives prepare workers for high-demand jobs and create a sustainable pipeline of skilled labor, contributing to the state’s long-term economic growth.


The labor shortage in Kentucky is a pressing issue with far-reaching impacts on various industries.

Addressing this challenge involves collaboration among educational institutions and businesses and consultations with experts.

Investing in workforce development programs, promoting the state’s attractiveness to potential workers, and improving access to education and vocational training, particularly in rural areas, are crucial steps to bridge the skills gap.

Considering programs such as the EB-3 visa for unskilled workers and enhancing local workforce development initiatives can provide valuable solutions for addressing the labor shortage in Kentucky.


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

2 EB3.Work.

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

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

5 Id.

6 USA Today Network. The Gleaner. “Unemployment claims in Kentucky declined last week”.

7 Id.

8 State Higher Education Finance. “State Profile: Kentucky”.

9 Id.

10 Id.