Topeka State officials said Friday that the Kansas job market remained stagnant, good news for those who are employed but bad news for those who are searching for work.
The state's unemployment rate stood at 5.3 percent in January, according to preliminary figures released by the Department of Human Resources. That compares to 5.6 percent nationally for January and an average of 5.4 percent in Kansas for all of 2003.
Kansas' unemployment rate in January 2003 was 5.9 percent, while the reported rate for December 2003 was 4.5 percent. But the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has required a recalculation of last year's month-to-month figures, a move that typically produces higher figures, the state agency said.
The rate in Lawrence was 4.6 percent in January, up from 4.1 percent in December.
Nonfarm payrolls in Kansas fell 24,500 jobs from December to January, reflecting traditional seasonal trends such as curtailment of outdoor construction and termination of holiday jobs in retail, the agency said.
But from January of last year to January 2004, nonfarm payrolls fell by just 200 jobs, to a total 1,299,800 jobs, Human Resources Secretary Jim Garner noted.
"The important fact to note is that employment numbers between January 2004 and January 2003 have changed very little," Garner said. "We haven't seen significant job loss in most industries during the past year, but we have yet to see any substantial job growth, either."
Beth Martino, spokeswoman for the agency, said it was difficult to tell where those people who lost their jobs during the downturn of 2001 and 2002 stand.
Initial jobless claims were 18,600 in January, slightly more than 18,400 for January 2003, and 24,800 in December. Currently, nearly 39,000 Kansans are receiving unemployment benefits.
"We know that people are getting to the end of the line when it comes to unemployment benefits," Martino said.
State officials lack the data to tell if workers are shifting to other sectors of the economy or are simply looking for work, she said.
Jobless rates remained highest in the state's four metropolitan statistical areas, as well as most of eastern Kansas.
Unemployment in the Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro area was 5.9 percent in January, up slightly from the revised 5.6 percent in December. Payrolls stood at 382,300, compared to 373,500 a year earlier. Counties' jobless rates in the area are Johnson, 4.5; Leavenworth, 8.1; Miami, 6.8; and Wyandotte 10.1.
Elsewhere, January unemployment stood at 5.2 percent in the Topeka metro area, up from 5.1 in December; at 6.4 percent in the Wichita metro area, up from 6.1 percent in December; and at 4.6 percent in the Lawrence metro area, up from 4.1 percent in December.