Archive for Saturday, March 15, 2003

Seasonal changes create jump in jobless rate

State’s unemployment rate reaches 5.2 percent in January

March 15, 2003


— Seasonal pressures sent the Kansas jobless rate higher in January, up to 5.2 percent, labor officials said Friday.

Traditional layoffs in retail trade and bad weather contributed to the increase. The rate stood at 4.8 percent in December.

January's figure was still better than the revised 5.5 percent for the same month in 2002, which reflected the loss of jobs following the terrorist attacks just months earlier.

The national average for January was 5.7 percent.

Unemployment in Wichita, the state's largest city, was 6.8 percent, up from 6.1 percent in December, as 2,750 people joined the jobless ranks. According to the Department of Human Resources, Wichita's jobless rate averaged 6.3 percent for all of 2002, reflecting the heavy loss of jobs to the city's aviation industry.

"The Wichita and south-central Kansas area continues to be hit hard with a higher unemployment rate than other areas of the state," said Jim Garner, acting secretary of human resources.

Bill Layes, chief of labor market information, said much like the financial markets, the job market has been under pressure as the United States prepares for a possible war with Iraq.

He cited the depressed condition of the aviation sector as an example, comparing it to the 1970s, when Wichita' unemployment rate was above 9 percent.

According to the Kansas Department of Human Resources, these are the unemployment rates for area counties. The first percentage is for January 2003 and the second is for December 2002:

¢ Douglas -- 4.5, 4.1¢ Franklin -- 5.5, 4.9¢ Jefferson -- 4.8, 4.1¢ Johnson -- 4.1, 3.9¢ Leavenworth -- 7.2, 6.1¢ Osage -- 6.6, 5.3¢ Shawnee -- 4.4, 4.1

Nonfarm employment was down 26,300 in January to stand at 1.321 million. The number of unemployed was 76,150, an increase of 8,600. More than 18,000 people filed for first-time jobless benefits for the month, with more than 41,600 people receiving checks.

Unemployment in the state's metropolitan areas also increased, with Topeka 4.4 percent, up from 4.1 percent; Lawrence 4.5 percent, up from 4.1 percent; and the Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro 5.7 percent, up from 5.3 percent.

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