Topeka Kansas officials received a dose of good economic news Thursday in an improved jobless rate.
The Department of Human Resources said the unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent in February, a decline of two-tenths of a percentage point.
The figure compared to 5.5 percent for the nation and 4.6 percent for Kansas in February 2001. Overall, 1,900 jobs were added to the economy, mainly through the return of workers who had been temporarily laid off in after-holiday work force reductions.
A slump in the economy and layoffs, particularly in manufacturing have been blamed for financial problems that have left the state with a projected $700 million budget shortfall. Corporate income tax collections have dropped dramatically, as companies have cut jobs in the face of less demand for their products.
"Brighter days are ahead, too," said Bill Layes, the department's chief of labor market information. "We sort of expected this to occur."
For the month, 67,604 people were actively seeking work, down from 70,328 in January, when many aviation and manufacturing layoffs took effect. Layes noted that manufacturing has taken the biggest hits as the economy moved through recession, shedding 6,000 jobs since February 2001, mainly in aviation.
Layes said January historically has one of the highest unemployment rates of the year, as holiday workers and outdoor jobs are idled. Those numbers begin to improve as spring nears and construction projects get started.
Initial jobless claims dropped by nearly 6,000 to 13,520 in February, slightly higher than the 13,414 a year earlier.
However, some cities received negative news. Wichita saw its rate jump by 0.5 percent to 5.6 percent in February, as the aviation industry continued to contract. Employment declined by about 925 jobs for the month, with unemployment at 16,300.
Results were mixed elsewhere in the state, with the Kansas portion of the Kansas City metropolitan area posting the biggest improvement.
The area, defined as Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami and Wyandotte counties, saw unemployment drop from to 4.9 percent from 5.9 percent in January. The number of people seeking work dropping by 4,000 to 19,900.