Topeka — Unemployment in Kansas declined slightly in December, leading the state's top labor official to suggest Friday the economy may improve.
The jobless rate in December was 4.5 percent, compared to a revised rate of 4.7 percent in November, the Department of Human Resources reported. It also was lower than December 2002's rate of 4.8 percent.
Throughout last year, monthly jobless rates followed seasonal trends but remained slightly lower than 2002 rates. Human Resources Secretary Jim Garner said he hoped the latest numbers were a sign that the economy had stabilized and was about to rebound.
A decline in the jobless rate is fairly typical for December, because of hiring by retail stores by the holiday season. The department's figures suggested that hiring fueled the improvement in the jobless rate again this year -- with trade, transportation and utilities employment increasing by 1,300, to almost 276,000 statewide.
But manufacturing employment declined by about 100 jobs during the month, to 177,000. Manufacturing companies employed almost 181,000 people in December 2002.
The department's report said manufacturing continued to see "small cutbacks."
Overall employment in Kansas in December dropped by about 5,300, to 1,410,906, in part because of seasonal job losses.
At the same time, the number of Kansans actively seeking work also declined by almost 4,100, causing the jobless rate to decline.
Unemployment in the state's four largest metropolitan areas -- Kansas City, Wichita, Topeka and Lawrence -- generally followed state trends and declined in December.
|Here are unemployment figures for area counties. The first percentage is the December unemployment rate, followed by the November rate.¢ Douglas -- 3.9 4.1¢ Franklin -- 4.4 3.9¢ Jefferson -- 4.2 3.7¢ Johnson -- 3.9 4.2¢ Leavenworth -- 6.8 6.5¢ Osage -- 6.3 5.8¢ Shawnee -- 4.6 4.8|