The startup of Kansas University's academic year pushed the Douglas County unemployment rate down 0.4 of a percentage point to 3.6 percent in August, matching the previous low for the year set in May.
A year earlier, in August 1990, the Douglas County unemployment rate was 3.8 percent. In July, it was 4.0 percent.
Douglas County's jobless rate dropped at the same time that the unemployment rate for the state rose from 4.5 percent in July to 4.8 percent.
Unemployment figures released today by the Kansas Department of Human Resources show that local employment in the government sector, which includes KU, rose by approximately 1,000 workers in August.
"That is counter to the state trend," said Kathy Ketchum, KDHR spokesman. "Mostly throughout the state we saw government personnel take a sharp dip, in fact."
Ketchum said the difference for Douglas County was that KU officially adds employees earlier than do primary and secondary schools, which bolster most communities' government employment figures.
THE GOVERNMENT sector employment figure, which was 10,800 in August, should edge higher next month, as school districts also report higher employment numbers. So far this year, the government personnel total peaked at 13,100 in March; the year-to-date low was 9,800 in July.
In August 1990, 11,000 people were employed in the government sector, up from 9,700 the previous month. In September 1990, the government employment total rose to 12,500.
Ketchum said the overall employment picture in Douglas County suggested that the local rate was lowered by an influx of new workers at the beginning of the academic year.
Ketchum said the size of the labor force increased in August. Although some people who were previously unemployed appeared to have found work, Ketchum said those gains did not account for the increase in the number of people who were employed.
THE KDHR pegged the size of Douglas County's workforce at 43,905 during August, and counted 42,327 people employed and 1,578 out of work. A month earlier the workforce had numbered 43,573, with 41,817 people working and 1,756 seeking jobs.
In August 1990, 44,529 people were counted in the Douglas County workforce. Of them, 42,857 had jobs and 1,672 were out of work.
A breakdown of the most recent employment data by industry shows that construction was the only sector besides government to register a change in employee numbers for August.
Construction jobs increased by 100 during August, which Ketchum said was noteworthy because the construction industry usually begins winding down its activity at the end of the summer. The KDHE said 1,800 people were employed in that industry during August.
FOR THE state, the August employment total was 1,253,088, up from the August 1990 figure of 1,250,219. This year's August total was 22,700 lower than that for July.
Topeka saw a dramatic increase in its jobless rate, which rose from 4.8 percent in July to 6.2 percent in August. In August 1990, the Topeka unemployment rate was 5.4 percent. The KDHE attributed the increase to seasonal layoffs in printing and publishing.
In Wichita, the jobless rate dropped from 5.2 percent in July to 5 percent in August. The rate was 4.7 percent in August 1990.
At 9.5 percent, Linn County's was the highest unemployment rate in the state. Republic County's was the lowest at 1.9 percent.