Seasonal factors associated with the startup of the school year pulled the Douglas County unemployment rate down to 3.1 percent in September, its lowest level in 19 months, the Kansas Department of Human Resources reported this morning.
That figure compared with 3.6 percent record in August as well as in September 1990. Douglas County's jobless rate had not matched September's 3.1 percent since April 1990.
The local unemployment level was well below the 4.2 percent statewide jobless rate for September. The Kansas unemployment rate was 4.8 percent in August and 4.4 percent in September 1990.
Kathy Ketchum, KDHR spokeswoman, said the Douglas County rate was reduced by an increase of about 1,500 jobs in the government sector. That category of employment, which stood at 12,200 jobs in September, includes the labor force for the local public schools as well as Kansas University and Haskell Indian Junior College.
"The report looked pretty seasonal," she said.
KETCHUM NOTED, however, that the number of government jobs in September was 300 lower than a year earlier and also had lagged by 300 in August.
"One of the things we're going to start watching is the column on government employment for both Lawrence and Topeka," she said. "It's a little unusual to see those numbers reduced over the year."
At this time, Ketchum said, KDHR officials don't know what is causing Douglas County's government employment to drop so substantially or whether they are seeing the beginning of some trend.
"If there are reductions, it's going to affect Lawrence," she said, noting that the community is heavily dependent on local schools for employment.
In other employment categories, the September numbers were mixed. Employment declined from August levels by 100 jobs in manufacturing but increased by 300 in retail trade and 100 in service industries.
The retail and service gains are consistent with the startup of KU's academic year, Ketchum said.
But compared with September 1990, employment in retail trade jobs was down by 300. That loss was offset by a 300-job gain in service industry employment.
THE KDHE also recorded some shrinkage in the size of the Douglas County labor force since September 1990 at the same time that the number of people working held fairly constant and the number of people looking for work declined.
This year, the county's labor force numbered 44,800, down from 45,126 a year earlier.
The number of people with jobs in September was 43,390, compared with 43,524 last year. The number of people out of work was 1,410, compared with 1,602 in September 1990.
Over the year, the number of people counted in all categories of the county's nonfarm wage and salary employment totaled 37,700 in September, a decline of 500 from a year earlier. Farm employment held steady at 700.