By Ben Kleppinger

For graduating students, this year’s job hunt might be more difficult than last year’s.Unemployment has risen in Madison County and 93 other counties in Kentucky over the last year, according to a report from the Kentucky Education Cabinet.

Unemployment dropped in 18 counties and stayed the same in eight counties during the same time period, according to the education cabinet.

The jobless rate in Madison County in October was 4.2 percent, a 0.4 percent increase from 3.8 percent in October 2006. Statewide, the unemployment rate rose from 5.0 percent to 5.6 percent, according to the Education cabinet.

The jobless rate in Madison County was down in October from 5.0 percent in September. The higher rate in September was due to an influx of people looking for jobs, said Kim Brannock, an Education Cabinet employee.

Brannock said the source of the extra workers in September was unknown. Justine Detvel, a labor force analyst for the education cabinet, said the rise in unemployment could be due to “a lot of factors,” including layoffs in multiple sectors, lower consumer spending and decreased manufacturing. Manufacturing in Kentucky has been on the decline since 2000, Detvel said.

Higher gas prices could also contribute, because car companies are selling fewer SUVs, resulting in fewer jobs for factory workers, Detvel said.

Detvel said businesses are hiring fewer people for the Christmas season this year than they normally do, which also contributes to the unemployment rate.

“I don’t know of anything that would make it easy to find a job right now,” Detvel said.

Despite the rise in unemployment, Madison County still has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Kentucky. Madison is tied with four other counties for the seventh-lowest unemployment rate in the state, Brannock said.

Counties with lower unemployment rates include Fayette and Warren counties, at 3.7 percent, Woodford County at 3.8 percent, Jessamine County at 3.9 percent, Scott County at 4.0 percent and Mason County at 4.1 percent, according to the Education Cabinet.

Jackson County had the highest unemployment rate in the state in October, at 10.2 percent. Jackson was followed by Grayson County at 9.7 percent, Harlan County at 9.1 percent, Spencer County at 9.0 percent and Clay County at 8.9 percent, according to the Education Cabinet.

The unemployment statistics the Education Cabinet collects are based on surveys that estimate how many people in Kentucky have been actively searching for jobs within the last four weeks, Brannock said.

If someone has not been actively searching for a job they cannot continue to receive unemployment compensation, and they effectively drop off the map, at least for the survey, Brannock said.

Brannock said unemployment rates tend to stay lower in the Central Kentucky area, which is called the “golden triangle.” The golden triangle is an imaginary triangle with Lexington, Louisville and northern Kentucky near Cincinnati as its points, Brannock said. “Your jobs tend to cluster around Jefferson, Fayette (County) and Northern Kentucky,” she said.

Brannock said people living inside the golden triangle have an easier time finding a job because urban areas like Lexington provide more job opportunities. Counties in Eastern Kentucky struggle with the most unemployment, she said.

Detvel said Madison County’s unemployment rate changes are nothing to be worried about.

“You can feel good about the county having one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state,” she said.