Topeka — The state's unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent in July, but state labor officials took more comfort Friday in numbers that showed job growth over the previous year.
The unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in June. It was higher in June because students flooded the employment market looking for summer jobs. When they found work or gave up, the rate dropped, as it has each July for the past two decades.
In Douglas County, the rate dropped from 5.0 percent in June to 4.9 percent in July. Here are the changes in surrounding counties: Franklin, from 5.2 percent to 4.8 percent; Johnson, 4.2 to 3.9 percent; Leavenworth, 6.6 to 6.2 percent; Jefferson, 3.7 to 3.4 percent, and Shawnee, 5.6 to 5.4 percent.
In releasing employment figures, the Department of Labor focused on how the job market in July compared to the market in July 2003, when unemployment reached 5.7 percent. The department said the number of people holding non-farm jobs in July, more than 1.3 million, was about 9,200 higher than in July 2003.
It was the fifth consecutive month in which more people held non-farm jobs than in the same month in 2003.
"This continued job growth over the year is a welcome trend," said Labor Secretary Jim Garner. "I am sure we will face economic challenges in the coming months. It is important for the state to remain committed to creating jobs and revitalizing our economy."
The state's estimated total employment grew to more than 1.42 million in July, suggesting that the number of people holding jobs grew by nearly 5,600 compared to June and nearly 41,000 compared to July 2003.
Also, the number of people actively seeking work dropped to 69,341, declining about 4,000 from June and about 13,600 from July 2003.
However, those figures include people who work only a few hours a week, and the department considers non-farm employment a more accurate assessment of the job market, spokeswoman Beth Martino said.
Total non-farm employment actually declined over the month, but the department attributed the drop mainly to government agencies shedding 24,600 jobs for the summer.
"Ninety percent of that was people in schools," Martino said.
Doniphan County continued to have the state's highest unemployment rate, 9.9 percent, while Gove County recorded the lowest, 0.9 percent.
The unemployment rate declined over the month in each of the state's four major metropolitan areas: to 5 percent from 5.4 percent in the state's portion of the Kansas City metro area; to 5.4 percent from 6 percent in the Wichita area; to 5.4 percent from 5.6 percent in the Topeka area; and to 4.9 percent from 5 percent in the Lawrence area.