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State's jobless rate falls; regional rate falls as well

12/24/2013

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Kansas officials simply were giddy about the state's plummeting unemployment rate, never mind it remains nearly double that of northwest Kansas.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate -- buoyed by temporary workers hustling about during the Christmas season -- dropped to 5.1 percent, down half a percent from October.

Northwest Kansas boasted an unemployment rate of only 2.64 percent, also down from October's estimates.

Even Sheridan County, the region's leader in terms of low unemployment rates, dropped lower in November.

There, unemployment fell to 2.05 percent, the second lowest in the state. Clark County reported a flat 2-percent unemployment rate. October's unemployment rate in Sheridan County stood at 2.4 percent.

In November, seven of the counties in the top 15 -- at least in terms of the lowest rate of unemployment -- were in northwest Kansas.

Ellis County dropped to 2.3-percent while even Wallace County, the high in the region a month ago, fell nearly a full percentage point to 4 percent.

With the release of the November report, Gov. Sam Brownback took the opportunity to claim at least some of the credit.

"Individuals and businesses are feeling confident about the Kansas economy as across-the-board tax relief leaves them with more of their money in their pockets," he said in a statement. "A reflection of that success is in the record revenue of more than $6.3 million we have seen this year. Our record job and revenue growth, declining unemployment and sound fiscal management ensure that we have the resources to make the strategic investments in education and public safety that benefit all Kansans.

"Kansas is leading the way," he said, and "2013 has been a good year and the future looks bright."

Kansas Labor Secretary Lana Gordan was delighted as well.

"The state has not experienced unemployment this low since December 2008," Gordan said in making the announcement. "This month's labor data is a sign that the Kansas economy is moving in the right direction."

While the seasonally adjusted rate fell, the unadjusted rate fell as well, down to 4.4 percent. That was down from 5.1 percent in October and 5.2 percent a year ago.

Unadjusted numbers show Kansas gained 19,900 in private sector and nonfarm jobs since November 2012. Since October, KDOL reported, Kansas gained 5,600 nonfarm jobs and the private sector increased by 4,000 jobs.

"The preliminary November estimates show a marked improvement over-the-month as individuals have moved from unemployment into employment," said senior labor economist Tyler Tenbrink.

KDOL reported seven of the 11 major industries in Kansas reported over-the-month improvements. Increases were greatest in trade, transportation and utilities, which added 4,700 jobs. Of those jobs, the biggest increase came in retail trade. Government added 1,600 jobs, with the largest gain in local government; professional and business services grew by 1,300.

Four industries reported statewide over-the-month job losses -- greatest in leisure and hospitality, down 2,200 jobs primarily in arts, entertainment and recreation. Construction lost 1,200, and mining and logging -- along with education and health services -- both decreased by 100 jobs.

In the past year, 10 of the 11 main industries in the state reported growth, the most in professional and business services. Financial increased by 3,000 jobs, most of those in finance and insurance. Trade, transportation and utilities reported adding 2,800 jobs.

Jobs for government in the year remained flat.

Initial unemployment claims, however, were down only slightly.