Figuring out the most recent unemployment statistics, which show different trends depending on which numbers are used, can be a bit of a mind bend.
The Journal-World consulted with Kansas Department of Labor economist Tyler Tenbrink on numbers released Tuesday, and here’s what we found out:
Q: 5,000 more Kansans were out of work in January compared with December, and the unemployment rate rose from 6 percent to 6.4 percent. But the seasonally adjusted numbers showed a decrease in unemployment, from 6.4 percent to 6.1 percent. Which numbers are more accurate?
A: “It depends,” Tenbrink said. If you’re looking at month-to-month changes, it’s better to use the seasonally adjusted numbers that factor in employment changes particular to specific months. For instance, retailers hire more workers temporarily during the holidays, and the seasonally adjusted rate accounts for that. But the not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate can provide an accurate picture when looking at year-to-year comparisons.
Q: The statistics released Tuesday report that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased between December and January. But what do we know about Lawrence’s unemployment rate?
A: The report does not provide seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for specific cities, though it does provide the not-seasonally adjusted numbers.
Q: Then the Lawrence numbers show a spike in unemployment rates, from 6 percent in December to 6.4 percent in January. Topeka, Wichita, Kansas City and Manhattan show similar spikes. Because those aren’t seasonally adjusted, are they not accurate?
A: They may not tell the whole story about unemployment trends in a community. Tenbrink suggested comparing this January to January 2011, which show a 1.1 percent drop in unemployment in Lawrence. About 1,300 more people in Lawrence had jobs this January than they did last year.
Click here for the full Kansas Department of Labor report.