Latest data shows manufacturing — not restaurants — producing biggest job losses in Kansas

photo by: Courtesy: Kansas Department of Labor

The map shows the number of initial unemployment claims by county for the week ending March 28.

There are plenty of signs that the restaurant industry is hurting in Kansas, but less clear is that the state’s manufacturing sector is also getting hammered. In fact, the latest numbers from state officials suggest it was a more brutal week for the manufacturing sector than it was for even the restaurant and hospitality industry.

The latest numbers from the Kansas Department of Labor show that, for the week ending March 28, 15,544 workers in the manufacturing sector filed for unemployment in the state. That was more than the 9,130 in the accommodation and food services industry.

Almost one out of every three unemployment claims filed for the week came from a manufacturing worker. That is a reversal from the previous week, when large numbers of unemployment claims started to hit the state because of COVID-19. In that week, about one out of every three people filing for unemployment was from the restaurant or hospitality industry, while manufacturing was a distant second.

The trend will be an interesting one to watch. While job losses in either industry cause lots of personal pain for those directly affected, losses of manufacturing jobs may suck even more dollars out of the state’s economy, as manufacturing workers generally make higher wages than many in the food and hospitality industry.

Here’s a look at which industries are seeing the largest amount of unemployment claims thus far in Kansas. The first number is the number of new claims filed the week ending March 28, while the second number is the cumulative two-week total since claims have spiked following COVID-19 disruptions.

• Manufacturing: 15,544 (19,050)

• Accommodation and food service: 9,130 (16,257)

• Health care and social assistance: 4,681 (7,591)

• Retail trade: 4,496 (5,736)

• Other services: 4,159 (5,163)

• Administrative and waste service: 2,251 (3,077)

• Arts, entertainment and recreation: 1,976 (2,908)

• Construction: 1,735 (2,601)

The state also released more detailed numbers about which counties are seeing the largest number of unemployment claims. Douglas County is checking in about where you would expect. It has the fifth-highest total number of people filing for unemployment, which is in line with the county’s status as the fifth-largest county in the state by population.

Douglas County had 2,304 people file claims during the week ending March 28. Statistics weren’t immediately available to show how much greater that is than normal, but statewide a little more than 55,000 people filed for unemployment. That was up more than 130% from the previous week, which had set a record for the state. Compared with a year ago, when unemployment was at historically low levels, claims are up by more than 3,500%.

The county-by-county numbers show that Sedgwick County — home to Wichita and the aviation industry — is getting hit the hardest. The numbers show 17,967 people filed claims there. Despite Sedgwick County being the second-largest county in the state, its number of unemployment claims is more than double the 8,369 claims in Johnson County, the state’s largest county.

The numbers also show another fact, one that is likely frustrating to those filing unemployment. While there has been a surge in filings, there has not yet been a surge in payments. The report states 306 people in Douglas County received unemployment checks during the week ending March 28. That’s only 92 more people than were receiving checks for the week ending March 14, which was before the surge in applications. In Sedgwick County, the number of checks has increased by about 800 in that time period, despite more than 20,000 people filing for unemployment in that county.

State officials this week announced they have brought in more workers to staff the unemployment center and also are working with Amazon to improve the technology to allow people to file claims more efficiently. Small business owners and independent contractors — people who normally aren’t eligible to file for unemployment — are able to get unemployment under a provision in the federal relief bill. However, many have reported facing major difficulties in getting accepted into the state’s system.

On Friday, a state official said those claims still aren’t being processed, nor is the $600-per-week extra payment the federal government has promised as part of the relief bill. Brett Flachsbarth, deputy secretary for the Kansas Department of Labor, said Kansas was still waiting for specific guidance on how to process and deliver those benefits from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“There is not a lot of movement right now until (the U.S. Department of Labor) can turn around that massive amount of federal legislation and put some concrete guidance out to the states,” Flachsbarth said.

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