Topeka — Employment in Kansas grew by 8,600 jobs in April, fueled by strength in housing and highway construction, state officials said Friday.
The new jobs -- many attributed to seasonal hiring -- helped drop the unemployment rate to 4.6 percent in April, down from 5 percent in March. Officials noted that since April 2003, Kansas has added 5,500 nonfarm jobs to the economy.
Human Resources Secretary Jim Garner said the growth was good news for the state economy, which has struggled to emerge from a downturn that began three years ago.
Nonfarm payrolls increased to nearly 1.32 million in April as firms began hiring workers for outdoor activities getting under way. Growth in the Wichita metro area -- Sedgwick, Harvey and Butler counties -- helped reduce the jobless rate there to 5.7 percent in April, the lowest level in more than two years.
Wichita has been hit hard since September 2001 because the aviation industry idled thousands of jobs. As of April, Wichita's employment stood at 274,100, nearly 10,000 jobs more than a year ago.
Beth Martino, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Resources, said in considering the good employment picture, seasonal factors needed to be considered, such as hirings by hotels, restaurants and leisure businesses and the start of summer construction.
Two of the state's three other metropolitan statistic areas also reported declines in unemployment.
The Lawrence area, defined as all of Douglas County, fell to 4.1 percent from 4.4 percent, while the Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro area was 5.2 percent, down from 5.6 percent a month earlier.
The Topeka metro area, defined as all of Shawnee County, increased to 5.3 percent from March's 5.1 percent. However, the city is expecting several hundred more people to be on the job later this year when retailer Target opens a distribution warehouse, employing more than 1,000 workers.
|Here's a look at area unemployment percentages for April and how they compare to levels in March:¢ Douglas -- 4.1, down from 4.4.¢ Franklin -- 4.6, down from 5.4.¢ Jefferson -- 3.9, down from 4.9.¢ Johnson -- 4.1, down from 4.3.¢ Leavenworth -- 6.6, down from 8.¢ Osage -- 6.4, down from 6.9.¢ Shawnee -- 5.3, up from 5.1.|