Northwest Kansas jobless rates low
By MIKE CORN
If unemployment was a sport, northwest Kansas would have a lock on placing -- if not winning -- it all.
Seven of the top 10 counties, in terms of the lowest unemployment rates, hail from northwest Kansas. Greeley and Logan counties were in a tie for the top spot in May, according to estimates released by the Kansas Department of Labor. Both reported unemployment rates of a mere 2.2 percent.
They closely were followed by the 2.4-percent rate reported for Ellis County.
Gove and Sheridan counties shared a 2.5-percent rate.
Across northwest Kansas, the unemployment rate stood at 2.87 percent, with slightly more than 1,800 people -- out of an employment force of 63,521 people -- actively looking for work.
Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 4.8 percent, unchanged from April but down from 5.6 percent a year ago.
The "May 2014 seasonally adjusted data shows the highest number of employed people in the state's history," KDOL reported. "The labor force grew by 5,857 people over the month. Of those, 5,459 became employed, and 398 entered the labor force as unemployed."
"For the second straight month," said Justin McFarland, director of the KDOL labor market information services department, "the state has set a new record high for the number of people working. This, along with other growth indicators, signifies employers' increasing demand for labor and Kansans' confidence in the economy."
Kansas has gained 14,800 private-sector jobs in the past year and 15,700 nonfarm jobs. In the past month, however, just 1,300 private jobs were added and 100 nonfarm jobs were lost.
Not seasonally adjusted figures show Kansas gained 12,400 private-sector and 11,900 nonfarm jobs since May 2013. In the past month, 6,100 private-sector jobs were added, and 5,800 nonfarm jobs.
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, up from 4.4 percent in April and down from 5.5 percent in May 2013.
"The labor force participation rate has rebounded quite well in 2014," Senior Labor Economist Tyler Tenbrink said. "At the end of 2013, 67.5 percent of the civilian population (age 16 and over) participated in the labor force. In May, that number had increased to 68.3 percent. This is over 20,000 additional people working or looking for work in the state."
Still, there were 12,518 initial claims for unemployment benefits in May, up from 10,186 initial claims a month earlier and down from 15,348 last year.