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Unemployment moves lower in northwest Kansas





Undaunted by January's labor force readjustment -- pushing rates higher -- northwest Kansas counties in February rebounded, its unemployment rate dropping slightly.

Even Sheridan County, the perennial leader in terms of a low unemployment rate, fell even lower.

In January, its adjusted unemployment rate stood at 2.6 percent, according to the Kansas Department of Labor. In February, the rate fell to 2.4 percent, reflecting only 42 people actively were looking for work. Sheridan County has a total labor force of 1,724 people.

Sheridan County is the only northwest Kansas county -- indeed the only Kansas county -- with an unemployment rate in the 2-percent range.

Twenty-nine Kansas counties had 3-percent unemployment rates, 10 of them from northwest Kansas. Ellis County is among them, with a February unemployment rate of 3.1 percent.

The unadjusted Kansas unemployment rate for February stood at 5.8 percent, down four-tenths of 1 percent. The seasonally adjusted rate was unchanged at 5.5 percent for the fourth month in a row.

Still, that's down from 5.9 percent a year ago.

The KDOL reported overall labor markets continued adding private-sector jobs.

"In February, the private sector gained another 2,000 seasonally adjusted jobs statewide," said Tyler Tenbrink, KDOL's senior labor economist. "This marks the fourth consecutive month of healthy job growth in Kansas and contributes to a combined total increase of more than 12,000 private-sector jobs since October."

Gains were made across several industry sectors, including professional and business services and financial activities.

While it added some jobs in February, manufacturing has seen slower job growth in recent months, the agency reported.

Based on building permit data, there's hope for continued improvement and higher employment in the construction industry as weather improves.

"Our state saw across-the-board growth in seven of the 10 major private sector industries this month," KDOL Secretary Lana Gordon said. "These job gains are very encouraging, particularly those in the professional and business services industry."