Braidy Industries

Craig Bouchard, Braidy Industries chairman and CEO, left, shakes hand with Gov. Matt Bevin, as Ashland Alliance President and CEO Tim Gibbs looks on at the McConnell House in Wurtland, before announcing his company plans for an aluminum mill in eastern Kentucky.

While state officials are touting 2017 as a record-breaking year for business investments, a new study ranked Kentucky the third worst state for jobs.

A WalletHub study ranked the Commonwealth 48th in the most attractive states for employment. It was ahead of only Louisiana and West Virginia.

The study stated Kentucky ranked 40th in job market and 50th in economic environment.

WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said the state has a low industry variety and few current job opportunities.

“Kentucky ranked last for the economic environment category because of its income tax burden for earners across the board,” she said. “The state has the highest tax burdens for low and middle income earners, respectively representing 3.77 percent and 4.87 percent of total income. When it comes to high-income earners, the tax burden is the 4th highest at 5.16 percent.”

In May, state leaders were celebrating setting a new record in investments by new and expanding industries in Kentucky. Gov. Matt Bevin said those investments would create more than 9,000 new jobs.

Jack Mazurak, communications director for the state cabinet of economic development, disagreed with the WalletHub study, pointing to the recently announced major investments.

“If Kentucky weren’t an incredibly advantageous location, Amazon wouldn’t be investing nearly $1.5 billion and creating 2,700 jobs for its Prime Air hub. Toyota, after 30 years in Georgetown, wouldn’t continue investing in its plant, the largest of its facilities globally, which is now receiving a $1.33 billion refurbishment. And Braidy Industries wouldn’t be laying the groundwork for a $1.3 billion, 550-job aluminum rolling mill — the nation’s first greenfield project of its kind in a generation,” he said in an email to The Register.

Mazurak said to date this year, Kentucky is at nearly $5.8 billion in business investments, well beyond the then-record $5.1 billion set in 2015. In 2014, the state recorded $3.7 billion in investments, which broke the previous record, set in 1987.

Last year, new job announcements totaled nearly 16,200 — the most since 2006.

“It’s worth noting, that performance followed multiple, consecutive year-over-year gains,” Mazurak said, noting 12,000-plus jobs announced in 2013, nearly 15,000 in 2014 and just over 16,000 in 2015. “Moreover, through May, new job announcements are at 9,500 plus, which puts Kentucky on pace to eclipse last year’s figure.”

Kentucky has also received several notable recognitions this year, according to Mazurak.

Area Development Magazine announced Kentucky will receive a Gold Shovel Award for its 2016 investment and job-creation success.

In the announcement, the magazine said Kentucky’s growth is “broad-based, with victories in a diversity of sectors, including distribution, biotech and food processing.”

In Site Selection magazine’s Governor’s Cup rankings for 2016, the state was named a national leader for economic development, placing first or second nationally in projects per capita for a third consecutive year.

The WalletHub study compared the 50 states across 24 key indicators of job-market strength, opportunity and economic vitality. Its data set ranged from employment growth to median annual income to average commute time.

To see the full study, visit wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-jobs/35641/.

Jonathan Greene is editor of The Register; follow him on Twitter @jgreeneRR.

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