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Unemployment slides lower again in NW Kansas

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

In see-saw fashion, unemployment rates in northwest Kansas retreated slightly in December after bumping higher a month earlier.

In either case, northwest Kansas continued with its low-employment ways, averaging 3.16 percent in the 20 counties making up the region. In November, that average stood at 3.28 percent.

Nine of the northwest Kansas counties were in the top 20 as far as the lowest counties in the state.

Yet again, Sheridan County -- with a 2.8 percent unemployment rate in December -- had the state's lowest unemployment rate. Following close behind were Rawlins and Gove counties.

By comparison, the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.4 percent.

Ironically, the state's unemployment rate was unchanged from November, even though December was considered the "strongest month of job growth since January," according to an economist with the Kansas Department of Labor.

The unadjusted rate in December was 5.3 percent, up slightly from a month earlier, but down from 6 percent a year earlier.

In northwest Kansas, December's labor pool was slightly larger but the number of people out of work was smaller than in November.

Fifteen counties in Kansas had unemployment rates of less than 3 percent. In northwest Kansas, those counties were Sheridan, Rawlins, Gove, Ness, Sherman, Ellis and Graham. Cheyenne and Logan counties had even 3 percent rates.

Only Rooks and Rush counties had rates of 4 percent or more.

Unemployment rates for most northwest Kansas counties were down from a year earlier, except for Ellis, but it stood at only 2.9 percent, up a tenth of 1 percent.

During the past year in Kansas, nearly 27,000 jobs have been added, the KDOL said in its latest report.

In December, 2,400 private-sector jobs were added but 700 nonfarm jobs were lost. KDOL said after the numbers were adjusted for seasonal factors, the numbers are significant gains.

"December marks the strongest month of job growth since January and ends 2012 on a strong note," labor economist Tyler Tenbrink said. "This increase made up for the losses in the prior three months, putting the state back on the longer term trend of positive but slow job growth."

Unemployment didn't move, however, because both the labor force and employment increased. December was the third month the labor force increased after months of declines.

"There are many positive signs in this labor report including the continued increase in employment and the private sector job gains," Labor Secretary Lana Gordon said in the statement. "We hope that the pace of this economic growth accelerates in the new year."

In Kansas, six of the state's 11 main industries showed job gains over a month earlier. Trade, transportation and utilities increased by 3,100 jobs, professional and business services added 2,300 jobs and financial activities gained 600 jobs.

Six of the industries reported job gains from a year earlier. Profession and business services added 9,700 jobs, manufacturing added 3,900 jobs and education and health services added another 3,000.

Initial and continued unemployment insurance claims increased compared to November but were down for the year.