Unemployment rates continue to fall
By MIKE CORN
Unemployment in northwest Kansas plummeted in April, falling nearly half a percentage point from conditions a month earlier.
In the 20 counties that make up northwest Kansas, the unemployment rate fell to 3.42 percent in April, down from 3.95 percent in March and 3.99 percent in February.
Statewide, the unemployment rate in April stood at 5.8 percent, down from 6.3 percent in April and 6.6 percent in March, according to the Kansas Department of Labor.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Kansas was 6.1 percent, down from 6.7 percent in April 2011 and from 6.2 percent from a month earlier.
The report gave conflicting situations.
Initial unemployment claims fell by approximately 3,000 in April compared to a month earlier, suggesting "Kansas employers are shedding fewer jobs," DOL said in a statement.
But the rate of job growth slowed.
"The pace of job creation in Kansas has slowed in the past three months," DOL economist Tyler Tenbrink said in the labor report announcement. "April added only 100 seasonally adjusted jobs over the month. This sluggish growth is reflective of what is happening in the national economy as gross domestic product growth has slowed, creating an environment that is not favorable for steady job growth."
Still, unemployment in northwest Kansas remains sharply below the rest of the state.
At least five counties in northwest Kansas -- Gove, Graham, Logan, Ness and Sheridan counties -- all had unemployment rates well below 3 percent.
In fact, Gove, Ness, Sheridan and Graham counties were joined by Scott County as the state's leaders in terms of lowest unemployment rates.
That suggests a strong work ethic in the region, considering an area is fully employed even when unemployment rates stand as high as 4 percent.
All told, in a region with a labor force of 62,432 people, only 2,133 are without work.
Across the state, the April labor report showed monthly gains due to seasonal changes. But that doesn't bode well for people looking for work.
While private sector employment grew by 13,900 jobs since March, a 1.3-percent increase, most of those gains were due to seasonal changes, showing a pause in the overall improvement of the labor market.
Since April 2011, Kansas has gained 10,800 private sector jobs.
"We should be pleased that Kansas continues to experience job growth," Kansas Secretary of Labor Karin Brownlee said in a statement. "This overall picture of measured, steady gains is acceptable at this time."
Nine of the 11 biggest industries in Kansas reported job gains since March, but most were due to seasonal changes.
Professional and business services increased by 3,300 jobs, a 2.2-percent gain in the past month.
Government was the only major industry that reported job losses during the time.
Continued unemployment benefit claims increased slightly from 199,138 claims one year ago to 199,393 in April 2012.
That also is an increase from 185,502 continued claims in March.