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Unemployment low in Sheridan Co.

10/22/2012

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

HOXIE -- Even with the lowest unemployment rate in the state, businesses in Hoxie continue to place help wanted ads.

No surprise, they're filling the jobs as well.

But with only 35 people unemployed in a county with nearly 1,700 people in the labor pool, it's a constant challenge.

That's equal to a 2.1 percent unemployment rate in September, down from the county's 2.9 percent unemployment rate a month earlier and 3.2 percent a year ago, according to new unemployment numbers released by the Kansas Department of Labor.

It's the lowest unemployment rate in the state.

"That's good news," said Hoxie City Clerk Janet Bainter, who serves double-duty when questions come up about economic development in both the city and county.

The Kansas unemployment rate also fell, dropping to 5.9 percent in September.

As is normally the case, northwest Kansas counties reported sharply lower rates, a combined 3.2 percent unemployment.

But such a low unemployment rate in Sheridan County makes it difficult to find employees, and a lack of housing makes it difficult to attract people to Hoxie.

That's why Wes Bainter and Scott Foote are in the early phases of a housing addition on Hoxie's east side, a development Janet Bainter said is expected to include an apartment complex.

"We don't have much in town as far as rentals or places for them to live if they want to come here," Bainter said of prospective workers.

Both Wes Bainter and Foote run operations in Hoxie and Sheridan County that are among the biggest employers. Bainter has a construction company, among several other interests, and Foote runs the family-owned Hoxie Feedyard west of town.

Working with the city of Hoxie for streets, the Sunrise Addition is looking to develop lots people can purchase to build on.

"We've kind of got things going here," Bainter said of conditions in Hoxie. "There's just not much for people to rent. Everything's full."

A strong agricultural economy is driving most of the boom, as employment at the feedlot has continued to be strong. Hoxie also has two full-line implement dealerships, which are among the largest employers in the county.

Unemployment rates elsewhere in northwest Kansas fell.

Of the 20 counties with the lowest unemployment rates in Kansas, half are in northwest Kansas.

In addition to Sheridan County, the counties of Gove, Ness, Rawlins, Sherman, Graham, Logan, Ellis and Trego all had unemployment rates lower than 3 percent.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted rate was 5.9 percent in September, a decrease from 6.2 percent a month earlier.

It's the first time since December 2008 the seasonally adjusted rate has fallen below 6 percent, the KDOL reported.

The unadjusted rate stood at 5.3 percent in September, down from 6.2 percent.

"The number of people who returned to work in September is very encouraging, and the decreasing unemployment rate is a very positive sign for Kansans," said interim Labor Secretary Lana Gordon.

During the past year, Kansas has gained 12,600 private sector jobs, a 1.2-percent increase. But another 12,400 nonfarm jobs were added.

There was a net gain of jobs in the month since the last unemployment report. Kansas gained 13,700 nonfarm jobs and lost 4,800 private sector jobs.

"In September, the statewide unemployment rate dropped to the lowest level Kansas has experienced in 45 months," said Tyler Tenbrink, KDOL labor economist. "This improvement was caused by approximately 5,000 people moving from unemployed to employed over the month. The seasonally adjusted job numbers, while down slightly this month, are making slow and gradual improvements overall."

According to the KDOL:

* Five of the 11 major industries reported an increase in jobs since September 2011. Professional and business services increased by 8,200 jobs, a 5.4 percent gain. Manufacturing added 4,200 jobs, up by 2.6 percent.

* Four of the 11 major industries saw gains from one month ago. Government gained 18,500 seasonal jobs from non-salaried school district and university employees returning to work. Other services gained 500 jobs since August, a 1 percent increase.

Unemployment claims -- new and continuing -- fell over the past month and from a year ago, KDOL reported.