Unemployment numbers rise both in Lawrence and across the state ahead of holidays

photo by: Courtesy: KDOL

The map show November 2020 unemployment rates for Kansas' 105 counties.

Good news on the unemployment front isn’t in store for this holiday season. You’ve probably seen the national news of an uptick in joblessness recently, after a turnaround appeared to be in process. Now, we have state and Lawrence numbers that show the same is happening here.

The unemployment rate in Lawrence rose to 5.3% in November, up from 4.8% in October. Looking back to a year ago, the numbers are more stark. The unemployment rate in November 2019 was 2.7%. In terms of people, Douglas County had 3,549 residents officially unemployed in November. That’s about 1,800 more people on the local unemployment rolls than a year ago.

The statewide numbers tell a similar story, according to the Kansas Department of Labor Report that was released Friday. The statewide unemployment rate hit 5.3% in November, up from 4.7% in October and 2.9% in November 2019. Kansas has just more than 82,000 people unemployed. Last year at this time, there were about 43,000 people unemployed.

For Douglas County, the most recent numbers end a four-month streak of posting steady or growing employment totals. Statewide, the November numbers end a three-month growth streak.

The November numbers also serve as a good reminder that this economic downturn hasn’t treated everyone equally, even groups that both appeared to be in the same boat, so to speak. Take restaurant workers versus retail workers, for example.

There was some thought that the pandemic would devastate both class of workers. Early on, the job figures showed that as well. But that quickly changed. While I’m sure there are still retailer workers who are suffering from the downturn, as a group, the retail workforce has rebounded in ways restaurant workers can only dream about.

Statewide, there are only 500 fewer retail jobs in the state than there was in November 2019. The sector is down just 0.3%. But in the category of leisure and hospitality jobs — everything from bar, restaurant and hotel workers — there has been a loss of 16,700 jobs from a year ago. The sector has lost nearly 13% of all its jobs.

The numbers in Lawrence and Douglas County are slightly more interesting. Retail jobs locally are actually up by 200 positions, or 3.4%. Retail is the best-performing job sector in Lawrence both in terms of actual jobs gained and percentage of growth, thus far in 2020. The leisure and hospitality sector, on the other hand, has lost 800 jobs for the year, and is down a whopping 11.1%. It is the worst performing sector in terms of percentage loss in Douglas County, but government jobs — which includes positions at KU — have lost more in terms of total jobs, with a decline of 1,400 positions.

The obvious conclusion to draw from all of this is that it is good to stuff the stockings this holiday season, but feel free to stuff your belly too, even if it has to be via takeout.

Here’s a look at some other unemployment numbers from the monthly report.

• Wichita continues to be the Kansas metro area hardest hit by unemployment, with a rate of 7.2% in November. Other metro areas: Topeka, 5.4%; Kansas City, 5%; Manhattan, 4.7%.

• Construction has been the best-performing job sector in the state, thus far in 2020. Through November it was up about 5.3% — or about 3,300 jobs — from November 2019 totals.

• Government job totals continue to be all over the board. As mentioned earlier, government jobs are the biggest category of jobs in Lawrence, thanks to KU. Lawrence, however, has been losing government jobs at a rate faster than the rest of the state. Government jobs are down 8.3% in Lawrence, while down just 4.5% statewide. The only metro area that is losing government at a faster rate than Lawrence is Manhattan, which has lost 15% — or 2,200 jobs — over the last year.

• The Kansas Department of Labor on Friday sent out a special warning to alert people of how rampant fraudulent activity is with the unemployment system currently. The department announced it has found a fraudulent website that is impersonating the official state of Kansas site used to file for unemployment. That false site is used to illegally collect people’s information to steal their identities. The department said the information about the fake site has been turned over to law enforcement, including the Secret Service, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, for possible prosecution.

Labor department leaders are asking people to carefully watch which sites they are logging onto. The only legitimate sites connected to the Kansas Department of Labor are: www.dol.ks.gov; www.GetKansasBenefits.gov; and www.PUA.GetKansasBenefits.gov.

If you suspect a site is fraudulent or think you have been the victim of identity theft, you can report it at www.ReportFraud.ks.gov.


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