Fueled by a manufacturing resurgence and growth in e-commerce and logistics sectors, the Louisville area has added jobs at a faster clip in the last five years than any other metro in the region.
Jefferson County gained a net of 67,500 jobs in the last five years, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for a growth rate of 11.6 percent. Growth in other metro areas in the region during that span ranged from 0.57 percent in Huntington, W.V., to 11.1 percent in Lexington.
Jefferson County’s jobs gain during that span also accounted for about half the gains in the state: Kentucky in September employed 1.9 million, up 133,000 from five years earlier, for a growth rate of 7.6 percent. Indiana employment grew 9 percent in the same period.
Local workforce experts explained the growth by pointing to investments made by corporate giants with a significant local presence — Amazon, UPS, Ford and General Electric – but also to companies who are new to the area or have smaller local operations, including Spanish auto parts maker Grupo Antolin and Australia-based Computershare.
Manufacturing and logistics sectors, especially companies that have had a presence in Louisville for a long time, have accounted for most of the new jobs, said Emily Brandon, program manager, Global Talent and Workforce Inclusion, at Greater Louisville Inc.
The professional services and hospitality sectors — thanks to “Bourbonism,” the city’s culinary scene and a greater focus of Louisville as a destination — also have contributed.
According to Small Business Administration data, 40 percent of growth comes from new businesses, but 60 percent is being generated by already existing employers, Brandon said.
“It’s … very important to appreciate, support and grow … what we already have here,” she said.
Louisville fared better than some of its peers in the last few years because of its supply chain infrastructure – interstates, airports, rail lines – and assets including the river, industrial parks and a highly skilled workforce, Brandon said.
When the economy rebounded, “we were ready,” she said.
Amazon spokeswoman Nina Lindsey told Insider Louisville that the company has added jobs nationwide in response to growing consumer interest in the company’s products, from toys and fishing supplies to University of Louisville gear.
Since August, Amazon has added 25,000 full-time jobs nationwide. And to prepare for the upcoming holiday season, the company is hiring another 100,000 part-time employees, up 25 percent from last year. Jobs are available in the Louisville area, she said.
Investments in the Louisville area are continuing: E-commerce growth and a need for more modern technology is prompting UPS to invest nearly $310 million in its package sorting facility in Louisville by 2018. The building footprint will more than triple, to 838,000 square feet, and employment will jump by 300.
By the end of next year, General Electric will have invested $1 billion in its Louisville operations since 2011.
Many companies are still looking for employees: Beech Mold & Tool, which announced a $23.3 million investment in New Albany, is displaying a big “NOW HIRING” banner on its website. Computershare has 12 current Louisville area job openings, including for a print production specialist and a senior IT risk consultant.
But the continued growth also is presenting challenges: Chip Blankenship, president and CEO of GE Appliances, has said companies are adding skilled jobs faster now than the labor market can fill them.
Insider Louisville will present in the next few weeks stories about possible solutions to the region’s workforce challenges.