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Jobless rate still low





Greeley County has bumped Sheridan County out of first place, at least in terms of reporting the lowest unemployment rate in the state for August.

That's the report from the Kansas Department of Labor, which recently released August's jobless rate.

Sheridan County long has maintained the lowest unemployment rate in the state.

There's certainly not a whole lot of difference -- 2.9 percent for Greeley County compared to the 3.1 percent for Sheridan County.

While the number of unemployed residents is approximately double, Sheridan County's population is nearly twice that of Greeley County.

Surprisingly, just four northwest Kansas counties were in the top 10 in terms of unemployment: Rawlins, Ness and Ellis counties, in addition to Sheridan.

In months past, northwest Kansas has claimed a majority of the low-unemployment spots in the top 10.

Unemployment in northwest Kansas isn't climbing -- still less than 4 percent. But other counties, most of them smaller, rural counties are seeing their unemployment rates decline.

Ellis County, at 3.4 percent, is the only big county in the state to report an unemployment rate of less than 4 percent. Ford County came closest, with an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum, the state's largest counties had the highest unemployment rates.

Wyandotte County reported a 9.4-percent unemployment rate. Sedgwick County stood at 6.9 percent. Johnson County reported 5.2 percent.

Statewide, unemployment in August stood at a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.9 percent. That's unchanged from July and up slightly from a year ago.

Job growth during the past month has been slow, with just 1,500 nonfarm jobs being added. But the state lost 1,100 private sector jobs, leaving a net gain of just 400 jobs in a state with 88,000 actively looking for work.

Seasonally adjusted, Kansas lost 200 nonfarm jobs and gained just 2,100 jobs since July, KDOL reported.

In the past year, Kansas gained more than 35,000 jobs.

Continuing unemployment claims in August were down from July.

"This is indicative of an improving labor market," said KDOL Secretary Lana Gordon.

Highlights of the report show six of the 11 major industries in Kansas reported over-the-month job gains. Gains were greatest in government with 2,600 jobs, with the largest increase at the local level. Professional and business services gained 500 jobs, and education and health services grew by 300 jobs.

But four of the state's major industries reported statewide over-the-month job losses, the biggest losses in leisure and hospitality and financial.

In the past year, eight of the 11 major industries in Kansas reported gains, the greatest in professional and business services with 9,300 jobs and leisure and hospitality gaining 2,600 jobs. Financial activities rose by 2,500 jobs with gains in the entire sector.

Government lost 5,400 jobs and construction lost 400 jobs in the past year.

"Private sector job growth picked up in August after seasonal adjustment, although there were some indications of softness in the labor market," said KDOL senior labor economist Tyler Tenbrink. "Trends in average weekly hours worked and average weekly earnings leveled from increases earlier in the year."