The agency said production dipped 1.2% during the April-June period to a rate of less than 20.5 million tons per quarter. Output fell in both the eastern Kentucky and western Kentucky coalfields by 1% and 1.5%, respectively.

Total Kentucky production rates have decreased by 25% during the past two years, 38% since 2000 and by 52% since 1990, the department said.

Coal production at the state’s underground mines actually increased, however, by 1% in the second quarter but the modest rise was more than offset by a 2% decrease at surface mines. Surface mine production remains at the lowest level since 1963. Coal production stopped entirely in Rockcastle and Henderson counties in 2013, with Patriot Coal Company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization filing and subsequent mine closures accounting for the Henderson County losses.

Earlier this year, western Kentucky passed eastern Kentucky in coal production for the first time in decades. That trend continued in the second quarter.

The picture was not any brighter for mine employment. Kentucky coal mines reduced employment by 851 workers, or 6.5%, in the second quarter. As of July, an estimated 12,342 people were employed in Kentucky mines, the lowest number in more than 85 years.

Layoffs included 864 coal miners — 487 underground and 377 surface employees. Coal preparation plants and on-site office staff increased by 14 jobs.

Eastern Kentucky mines cut total employment by 916 people, or 14.4%, in the second quarter. Coal mines in western Kentucky increased total employment by 65 jobs, or 1.5%.

Western Kentucky’s Union County, the home of Alliance Resource Partners’ large River View underground mine, now is the leading coal-producing county in the state, having recently supplanted eastern Kentucky’s Pike County. Other leading coal counties include Hopkins, Ohio, Webster, Muhlenberg, Perry, Harlan and Martin.

As Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett observed, Central Appalachia, which includes eastern Kentucky, “has been the hardest hit in the recent downturn we’ve seen of anywhere in the country.”

Bissett blamed the state’s lower production and employment figures on a variety of factors. They include “an enhanced regulatory philosophy (for eastern Kentucky) that other coalfields don’t have, natural gas prices that were going up and now are going back down and the on-again, off-again warm summer temperatures.”

Exacerbating the situation, he said, is the Obama administration’s war on coal. Bissett said it is too soon to get an accurate read on Kentucky coal for 2014. “The great variable is the international markets. We’ve never been a large exporter, but I think we’ll see more and more of that, especially if the president has his way on reducing coal.”