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Unemployment continues slow climb

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Northwest Kansas unemployment numbers for February continued their climb in February, now standing at slightly less than 4 percent.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted rate stood at 6.1 percent. That's down from 6.9 percent a year ago and unchanged from January. Unemployment rates not seasonally adjusted stood at 6.6 percent, up slightly from January.

But it's the northwest Kansas numbers that signaled a slowdown, as unemployment rates in Phillips, Rooks and Rush counties all climbed to 5 percent or higher in February.

In January, only Rooks County had a 5 percent unemployment rate.

The higher rate, however, is little cause for alarm. Unemployment rates of less than 4 percent are considered fully employed.

In February, only 2,479 people - out of 62,128 in the labor pool -- were without work.

Statewide numbers showed signs of improvement, according to the Kansas Department of Labor.

Overall, the state has gained 18,300 nonfarm jobs during the past year, a 1.4 percent increase. The private sector gained 21,300 jobs, showing a continuing decline in government jobs in the past 12 months.

"The February report did not indicate significant change in the Kansas labor market over the month," said Tyler Tenbrink, the department's labor economist. "The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained steady at 6.1 percent."

Eight of the 11 major industries in Kansas reported job gains during the past year. The professional and business services industry has gained 11,900 jobs since February 2011, an 8.2 percent increase.

"Looking at the February numbers alone would indicate a lukewarm labor market," Kansas Labor Secretary Karin Bownlee said in a statement. "The over-the-year gains from February 2011 to February 2012 indicate healthy growth, which we hope continues as the year progresses."

Six of the 11 major industries also showed job gains over the month. The manufacturing industry continues to see improvements in the number of jobs and in the hours worked per employee. Both of these are good signs for the Kansas economy. The gain shown in government jobs since January was because of seasonal increases, including university student workers returning after the winter break.

Initial unemployment benefit claims for February decreased over the month, but increased compared to February 2011. Continued claims decreased from January and when compared to this time last year.