Topeka The jobless rate in Lawrence and across the state declined in February, but officials said Friday there was still uncertainty the economy will rebound.
In Lawrence, the rate fell to 4.4 percent from 4.5 percent in January. Statewide, February unemployment was 5 percent, down from 5.3 percent. The national rate was 5.8 percent.
A soft employment outlook and the continuing war with Iraq has many investors and companies holding back, said Bill Layes, chief of labor market information for the Department of Human Resources.
"I think there are a lot of people on the sidelines right now," Layes said.
Human Resources Secretary Jim Garner said the decline was not unexpected. Employment rose by 2,550 jobs for the month, while the number of unemployed people dropped by 4,000, to 72,900 people actively seeking work.
"We continue to see the real impact of the struggling economy in Kansas with news of more expected layoffs unfortunately commonplace," Garner said.
Nonfarm payroll rose by 3,900 jobs, standing at 1.325 million people on the job. Government was the leading sector with 3,300 new jobs, related to the return of nonteaching personnel to schools after holiday breaks.
Professional and business services added 1,600 jobs as the tax preparation season got under way.
On the negative side, manufacturing continued to shrink with the loss of 600 jobs, primarily in the aviation industry.
Still, the jobless rate in the Wichita metropolitan area improved in February to 5.9 percent from 6.8 percent a month earlier. The rate was 6.3 percent in 2002. Driving the February figure was the decline in the number of unemployed by 3,000, standing at 17,400. Employment was unchanged at 277,700.
The Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro area saw unemployment rise to 6.1 percent, up from 5.8 percent in January. It was the only metro area to see a rate increase, as 1,300 people joined the jobless ranks. The increase was blamed on a temporary layoff in manufacturing. Topeka's jobless rate improved to 4.1 percent, down from 4.4 percent in January.