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Kan. jobless rate rises slightly in March

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Unemployment rose slightly in Kansas in March despite a drop of more than 1,300 applications for initial unemployment benefit claims.

The Kansas Department of Labor reported late Thursday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 5.5 percent in February to 5.6 percent in March. The rate was 5.8 percent in March 2012.

Labor Secretary Lana Gordon said the monthly state report indicated that the Kansas job market remained more stable than the overall national picture.

A labor economist says Kansas didn't add as many jobs that it typically does in March. The private sector added 3,100 jobs, led by 1,800 new positions in construction and 1,400 jobs in leisure and hospitality. The trade, transportation and utilities sectors lost 1,800 jobs during March.

"This muted tone was prevalent throughout the numbers, indicating a slowdown in momentum for the month," said economist Tyler Tenbrink.

The unemployment report will be considered in discussions Friday by members of a consensus revenue estimating panel that will calculate how much tax revenue Kansas can expect to collect over the next 18 months. The estimate will be used by legislators when they return May 8 to complete their work on the 2014 and 2015 state budgets and settle differences over a proposal by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback to make further cuts to tax rates.

Initial claims for jobless benefits fell from 16,388 in February to 15,069 in March. The figure was also below the 17,997 initial claims filed in March 2012. There were some 128,000 people still receiving continued jobless benefits.

More than 185,500 continuing benefits claims were paid in March 2012.

Unemployment was highest in the eastern counties of the state, in particular southeast Kansas where several counties had rates in excess of 7 percent, led by Wilson County with 9.2 percent, Linn 8.7 percent, Labette 8.3 percent and Bourbon 8.2 percent.

The lowest rates were in rural Kansas counties in the western half of the state. Sheridan County in northwest Kansas had the lowest rate in the state with 2.6 percent.