Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

Labor force still rising

Screenshot courtesy of KentuckianaWorks

The Louisville area unemployment rate rose in December to 3.5 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from a year earlier, though the number of local jobs also rose.

The unemployment rate ticked up because the labor force, defined as all people ages 16 and older who are either working or actively looking for work, rose at a faster clip than the number of jobs.

The labor force, at 663,187 in December, was up by 3,404, or 0.5 percent, while the number of jobs, at 640,174, rose by 1,925, according to data provided by KentuckianaWorks.

Economists generally say that a rising labor force points to a growing economy as it indicates that people are moving to an area with high confidence in finding a job, or that people who previously had been discouraged from looking for a job are once again trying to find employment.

Employers in December had posted nearly 14,000 open jobs in December, with just more than 4,00o of those requiring at least an associate degree. — Boris Ladwig

Airbnb remitted nearly $1 million in taxes

Screenshot from Airbnb website

During the first year of Airbnb’s agreement with Louisville Metro Government, the property rental website gave $955,000 in tax revenue to the city in 2018.

That number is based on nine months as the agreement took effect on April 1, 2018.

In the agreement, Airbnb pledged to collect an 8.5 percent room tax from hosts and remit it to the city. The same tax is applied to hotel room bills.

Airbnb and other short-term rentals have been a heated topic of conversation as the city looks at changing its regulations regarding short-term rentals. The Planning Commission recently recommended some alterations, but two Metro Council members in districts with numerous short-term rentals said that they don’t the recommendations went far enough. They have raised concerns about how non-owner-occupied rentals could impact housing affordability. —Caitlin Bowling

Supplies Over Seas sends first global shipment of the year

Courtesy of Pixabay

Louisville-based Supplies Over Seas sent more than $150,000 worth of medical supplies and equipment to a hospital in Uganda this week.

A 40-foot container filled with more than 17,000 pounds of goods, such as an anesthesia machine, a baby incubator, hospital beds, gloves and EKG units, is destined for the Whisper’s Magical Children’s Hospital in Jinja, Uganda.

The hospital treats many children who have sickle-cell disease. Other problems among the patient population include malaria, scalds, burns and malnutrition.

“I traveled to Uganda, personally, last fall where I witnessed the overwhelming shortage of medical supplies critically needed to provide medical care,” SOS Executive Director Denise Sears said in a news release. “I am so grateful that we have this opportunity to save lives in this region of the world, and we are already working on a second container for Uganda that we hope to ship in the spring.” —Darla Carter

New releases to know about: Four Roses, Eagle Rare, Copper & Kings

Courtesy of Four Roses

And we thought winter was a slow time for new releases. Three more products have been announced this week, the first being a new Four Roses expression, the first permanent product-line extension in more than 12 years. It’s the Four Roses Small Batch Select, which is non-chill filtered and bottled at a 104 proof.

Many distillers opt to chill filter their bourbon as it leaves the barrel to remove fatty acids so that when you add ice or throw it into the freezer, it doesn’t turn cloudy. But bourbon purists kinda like those natural nutrients in there, so the demand for non-chill-filtered whiskey has increased in recent years.

“We wanted to add something to our lineup that brings that pure experience you get with a non-chill filtered bourbon, while also showcasing some of our recipes and flavors that aren’t as forward-facing in our other existing bottles,” said Master Distiller Brent Elliott in a news release.

The Small Batch Select will be released this spring, and that’s when Elliott says he’ll share more details about which recipes are going into the bourbon. There’s also no word on the cost, although we’re guessing it’ll be more than the regular Small Batch, which retails for about $30.

The next bourbon release we’ll keep short and simple because the chances of any of us tasting — let alone seeing — one is slim to none. Buffalo Trace is coming out with the Double Eagle Very Rare Bourbon, a 20-year-old Eagle Rare sold in a fancy crystal decanter. There are only 299 bottles, and they’ll retail for $1,999 each. Good luck.

Courtesy of Copper & Kings

Finally, Louisville’s Copper & Kings is coming out with two new flavorful gins: The History of Lovers, a pink rose-forward gin, and The Ninth, a gin finished in Destillaré Orange Curaçao barrels.

Both products are non-chill filtered and made with no neutral spirits, meaning the base spirit is the distillery’s apple brandy low-wine.

“We don’t do ‘Barbie’ gins, and we don’t do gin-flavored vodka,” explained C&K founder Joe Heron in a news release. “We make extraordinary gin for grown-ups with sophisticated palates, distinctive and differentiated. We make it our way, with no neutral spirits, distilled on our beautiful copper pot-stills, using a brandy base, and we look to layer and retain complex flavors and sophisticated aromas, without using artificial flavors or colors. These are authentic, luxury, natural distilled gins.”

We’d love to have a sample of both of these because they sound delicious, with hints of honey, hibiscus, rose and strawberry in the former, and orange, honey and jasmine in the latter. Both retail for $35 and can be found at the Butchertown distillery or a select few liquor stores. —Sara Havens

In brief

In time for the second half of the 2019 legislative session, Chris Musgrave became the Kentucky Department of Education’s new head of government relations, the department announced Tuesday. A graduate of public schools in Knox County, Musgrave has worked for Sen. Rand Paul and Club for Growth.

Mike Isenberg is now the vice president of talent development at Los Angeles-based broadcast news and sports talent representation firm 3 Kings Entertainment, which is owned by Louisville-based Blue Equity.

New Albany-based consulting engineering firm Clark Dietz announced that Tonia Speener, PE, LEED AP, and Kevin Hetrick, PE, have been elected to the firm’s 2019 board of directors.

Architecture and interior design firm EOP Architects promoted Ben Simmons, AIA, LEED AP (Louisville), Daniel Ware, AIA, LEED AP (Lexington), and Kevin Gough, AIA (Lexington) to principal. The firm also promoted Matthew Schultz, AIA, in Louisville to associate.

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