Archive for Saturday, March 12, 2005

State unemployment rate climbs in January

March 12, 2005


— Kansas unemployment rolls swelled by 33,900 people in January, pushing the state's unemployment rate to 5.8 percent, the state reported Friday.

The increase came from a combination of seasonal layoffs after the holiday season and a change in how Kansas calculates employment data, said Beth Martino, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Labor.

The revised jobless unemployment in December was 4.7 percent. Kansas and other states have changed their reporting to more accurately reflect the number of people working and unemployed, which also will affect reporting of the national unemployment rate, Martino said.

"Basically, we were underreporting unemployment and over-reporting employment," Martino said.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics initiated the changes after concluding that figures produced under a method used since 1994 were inadequate.

Kansas officials also revised unemployment data for 2004, and the changes on average showed unemployment rates higher in most counties by 0.8 of a percentage point than previously reported. Martino said data going back to the 1970s would be revised for accurate comparisons and the process should be complete by summer.

The department blamed much of January's employment decline on 11,100 jobs lost in government as schools shut down in December and early January for the holidays. State officials said the timing of payrolls and jobless reporting caused a larger number of the seasonal cutbacks to fall in January than in previous years.

Job cuts in the trade, transportation and utilities category -- primarily retail stores -- accounted for 7,400 more layoffs. Construction was off 6,200 jobs from December as outdoor projects concluded for the winter.

State officials plan to release unemployment figures for February in two weeks.

Here's a look at area unemployment percentages for January and how they compare to levels in December:¢ Douglas -- 4.7, up from 3.6¢ Franklin --7.6, up from 6.1.¢ Jefferson --8.1, up from 5.8.¢ Johnson -- 4.7, up from 3.7.¢ Leavenworth -- 7.1, up from 5.1.¢ Osage -- 9.4, up from 6.6.¢ Shawnee -- 6.9, up from 5.8.

Despite the losses, Labor Secretary Jim Garner said the Kansas economy was still stronger than it was a year ago. January nonfarm employment stood at 1.3 million jobs, up 19,000 from the same period in 2004.

"Regardless of how our unemployment rate is calculated, it is clear that Kansas businesses are adding jobs, and that's the best indicator of economic growth," he said.

Leading job growth during 2004 were manufacturers of durable goods and firms providing professional and technical services. Both added more than 5,000 new jobs.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said the improving economy was evident in recent state revenue collections, which are $43.5 million ahead of estimates calculated in November.

"I think things are picking up a bit," Sebelius said. "There are still some communities that are hurting. I wouldn't say we're out of the woods yet."

Unemployment in the state's four metropolitan statistical areas also increased in January but comparisons to 2004 were mixed. The state also added counties to the metro areas, Martino said, to reflect workers who commute.

Unemployment for the Lawrence area, covering Douglas County, was 4.7 percent, up from 3.6 percent in December and 4.5 percent in January 2004.

The Topeka metro area, which now includes Jackson, Jefferson, Osage, Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties, had an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent, up from 5.7 in December and 6.6 percent in January 2004.

The Wichita area of Butler, Harvey, Sedgwick and Sumner counties had a rate of 6.5 percent in January, up from 5.4 percent in December, but down from the 7.3 percent in January 2004.

The Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro area, which includes Franklin, Johnson, Leavenworth, Linn, Miami and Wyandotte counties, had a rate of 5.9 percent in January, up from 4.6 percent in December and down from the 6.1 percent in January 2004.

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