LEXINGTON, Ky. -

A state report shows the number of coal jobs in Kentucky has dwindled to its lowest point since 1950.

The data from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet in reporting that the 13,109 people worked in the coal industry during the first quarter of 2013. The newspaper reports that is the least amount of workers since state officials began keeping records in 1950. "These numbers are not surprising, but they're very concerning," said Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.

Employment at Kentucky coal mines has decreased by almost 5,700 workers in eastern Kentucky over the last 18 months and production has fallen by 42 percent. In September of 2011, there were 18, 804 workers in the industry.

According to analysts, the low price of natural gas was a key factor in the lower demand for coal from Eastern Kentucky in 2012, when production dropped almost 28 percent.

The state report says production at underground mines in eastern Kentucky increased by nearly 2 percent in the first quarter of 2013, but it fell by 4.6 percent at surface mines meaning an overall decline.