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State unemployment falls despite big job losses




For the second month in a row, Kansas officials were delighted with the state's falling unemployment rate.

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For the second month in a row, Kansas officials were delighted with the state's falling unemployment rate.

They were especially so given the state's adjusted unemployment rate dropped below 5 percent in December, never mind the loss of more than 12,000 jobs in the past month and a sharp rise in the number of people filing for unemployment benefits.

Unemployment in northwest Kansas climbed slightly in December, by two-tenths of 1 percent.

The northwest Kansas unemployment rate in December stood at 2.8 percent. That's up from 2.64 in November.

Even Sheridan County, well-known for its persistent low unemployment rate, bumped higher to 2.1 percent.

At that rate, it's in a tie -- with Greeley and Ness counties -- for reporting the second lowest unemployment rate in the state. Clark County, with 2 percent unemployment, again this month had the lowest rate in the state.

With a 2.4-percent unemployment rate, Ellis County was in a tie for fourth place, matching Comanche, Gove, Gray, Logan and Mitchell counties.

But northwest Kansas and many rural counties consistently have reported sharply lower unemployment rates than other areas in the state.

The Kansas Department of Labor reported a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.9 percent, down from 5.1 percent in November and 5.5 percent a year ago.

But KDOL also reported the loss of 5,500 private sector jobs and 7,400 nonfarm jobs since November's report.

The state gained 10,100 seasonally adjusted private sector jobs and 10,000 nonfarm jobs since December 2012.

"The state's unemployment rate continued its descent, dropping below 5 percent for the first time since 2008," said KDOL Secretary Lana Gordon. "For the second consecutive year, Kansas saw over-the-year growth of more than 10,000 jobs. This is all good news for Kansans."

Unadjusted numbers show an increase of 20,000 private and nonfarm jobs in the past year, even with the loss of nearly 15,000 nonfarm and private sector jobs between November and December.

The unadjusted unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, up slightly from November.

Over-the-month job increases came in trade, transportation and utilities, KDOL reported. But the increase there was only 1,000 jobs.

Seven of the 11 main industries in Kansas reported over-the-month job losses.

Construction, leisure and hospitality led the way, with 2,400 jobs lost.

"Government lost 2,100 jobs, which were primarily at the state level," KDOL reported.

"Over the year, professional and business services, financial activities and the education and health services industries accounted for about 81 percent of the 10,000 nonfarm jobs gained," said KDOL economist Efua Afful. "We observed consistently positive over-the-year gains in nonfarm employment in these industries throughout 2013."

Even with the increased number of jobs in the past year, initial claims for unemployment in December stood at nearly 20,000. That's up sharply from November's nearly 13,000 new unemployment claims, but nearly identical to claims filed a year earlier.