By MIKE CORN
In northwest Kansas, it's tough to tell the difference between the Great Recession and today.
There are strong oil and commodity prices, bolstered by stable housing prices and rising farmland prices.
In short, unemployment rates have remained relatively flat, even though for a time it looked as if some counties might tumble off the financial cliff as the Great Recession started to form.
Today, northwest Kansas boasts a staggeringly low unemployment rate.
Wallace County, with its labor pool of 947 workers, is the only county in the region with an unemployment rate in excess of 5 percent.
But only 48 people are unemployed, so small numbers have dramatic effects.
At the flip side of the spectrum, both Sheridan and Ness counties boast unemployment rates barely breaking the 2-percent threshold.
Between them, 75 people actively are looking for work, according to the Kansas Department of Labor, which revised its December rates just three days after releasing them in late January.
Ellis County, even with its large labor pool, still was able to sport a 2.33-percent unemployment rate in December.
Peak unemployment in Ellis County during the Great Recession came in June 2009 -- proving to be something of a bellwether for the end of the economic downturn -- when the jobless rate climbed to 4.8 percent.
Rooks County, perhaps one of the hardest hit areas in northwest Kansas, didn't fully recover until the state decided to reopen the Stockton Correctional Facility, a move unrelated to the Great Recession.
Sheridan County offers a good glimpse into how the crashing economy didn't have as much effect. There, unemployment peaked at 3 percent in July 2008, according to KDOL.
It's gone slightly higher than that since the recession ended.
Up and down the line, it's pretty much the same story in northwest Kansas, which currently remains well below the state unemployment rate.
Northwest Kansas has a labor pool of 65,250 workers, while just 1,779 are unemployment.
That's a 2.77-percent unemployment rate.