Douglas County remained relatively unscathed by recessionary unemployment during December, when the local unemployment rate dipped to a 1991 low of 2.8 percent, figures released today by the Kansas Department of Human Resources show.
The local rate compares favorably with the 3.9 percent level reported for the entire state during December and the U.S. unemployment rate, which was 7.1 percent for the month.
Douglas County's 2.8 percent rate represents a decrease from both the 3.3 percent calculated for November and the 3.6 percent reported for December 1990.
However, Kathy Ketchum, a KDHR spokesman, said the decline in December's jobless rate was not necessarily the result of unemployed people finding work.
"It appears that a number of people dropped out of the labor force," Ketchum said.
This particular change probably is a seasonal trend in Lawrence, she said, adding that the Douglas County labor force had shrunk in size from November to December in five of the past six years.
"It appears that that's pretty typical," she said. "I rather suspect there's some seasonal factors at work there."
IN DECEMBER, the KDHR counted 44,854 people in the county's labor force, down from 45,062 in November and the 45,010 reported in December 1990. These figures represent the number of people either employed or actively seeking work.
The number of people with jobs in December totaled 43,603, compared with 43,573 in November and 43,404 in December 1990.
The KDHR said 1,251 people were looking for jobs during December, down from 1,489 in November and from 1,606 in December 1990.
Ketchum said the KDHR had not yet computed final figures for all of 1991, however it appears that the average monthly jobless rate for 1991 will be about 3.7 percent, compared with 3.6 percent in 1990.
Across the various categories of employment, the KDHR recorded declines of 100 jobs or less from November levels in four areas. Those categories and their December job totals are: construction, 1,400; manufacturing, 4,700; transportation and public utilities, 900; and farming, 500.
THE MOST sizable change within a single category was the reduction by 200 in government employment, which Ketchum said undoubtedly was caused by temporary layoffs at the end of Kansas University's fall semester.
Employment in government jobs declined from 12,700 in November to 12,500.
"We think we are beginning to see the beginning of state furloughs" over the holiday break, Ketchum said. "We expect to see further reduction in that sector in January."
A year earlier, government employment also dropped from 12,700 in November to 12,500 in December before plunging to 11,900 in the KDHR's January 1991 employment report.
The 3.9 percent statewide rate reported for December also was an improvement. The state rate was 4.2 percent in November and 4.7 percent in December 1990.
THE STATE'S largest cities also reported jobless declines for December.
The Wichita rate decreased from 4.0 percent in November to 3.7 percent in December. In December 1990, its unemployment rate was 4.3 percent.
The jobless rate was 3.9 percent on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metropolitan area, compared to 4.2 percent in November. In December 1990, it was 4.9 percent. The area is defined as Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami and Wyandotte counties.
In the Topeka area, defined as Shawnee County, the rate dropped from 4.5 percent in November to 4.1 percent in December. In December 1990, it was 5.1 percent.