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Region's unemployment stays low

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Nearly half of the 3-percent-and-under-unemployment-rate counties in the state are in northwest Kansas.

Only two counties -- Rooks and Rush counties, historically the highest in the region -- were in the 4-percent range in October, according to new estimates released by the Kansas Department of Labor.

Statewide, the unemployment rate stood at 5.7 percent, down two-tenths of 1 percent from September. A year ago, the unemployment rate in Kansas stood at 6.2 percent.

Sheridan County continues to lead the state with the lowest unemployment rate, standing at 2.1 percent, equal to last month's rate. Gove County follows close behind at 2.4 percent unemployment.

Fifteen counties had unemployment rates of less than 3 percent. In addition to Sheridan and Gove, they include Rawlins, Ellis, Graham, Ness and Sherman counties in northwest Kansas.

In the 20-county northwest Kansas region, the collective unemployment rate was 3.1 percent.

Fewer than 2,000 people were actively looking for work, nearly a quarter of them in Ellis County alone.

Sheridan County had 36 people actively looking for work in October.

The statewide decline in unemployment was hailed by officials at the state's labor department.

"The continued decrease in the unemployment rate is a positive sign for Kansas," said Lana Gordon, interim labor secretary. "It is encouraging to see the number of employed Kansans increasing the past two months."

Overall, Kansas has gained 8,700 private sector jobs in the past year, along with 8,400 nonfarm jobs.

In the past month, more than 7,000 jobs have been added.

"The October labor report shows tentativeness as evidenced by the slow seasonal hiring," said labor economist Tyler Tenbrink. "One positive economic sign is a decreasing unemployment rate, which improved significantly for the second consecutive month."

Seven of the state's 11 major industries reported job increases since October 2011. Professional and business services increased by 6,200 jobs, a 4-percent gain. Manufacturing added 3,900 jobs, and education and health services gained 3,300 jobs.

Six of the 11 industries reported gains in the past month. Government gained 5,100 seasonal jobs, while education and health services gained 700 jobs since September.