Kansas unemployment rate unchanged in May but officials see signs recession is ending

By John Hanna, AP
Friday, June 18, 2010

Kansas unemployment remains at 6.3 percent in May

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas economic officials reported Friday that the state’s unemployment rate remained at 6.3 percent in May, but officials said they see modest signs that the state is emerging from the economic recession.

The state Department of Labor also reported that Kansas gained 11,300 jobs from April to May. The increase was less than 1 percent, and some of it can be attributed to seasonal trends, but it was enough for Gov. Mark Parkinson to declare that he’s encouraged.

“While this growth has been slow, it has been steady and shows that Kansas is coming out of this economic recession,” Parkinson said. “Clearly we are moving in the right direction and now must focus on accelerating our progress so that all Kansans can find a job.”

But the department’s report showed most of the new jobs gained from April to May — about 7,400 of them — resulted from government hiring. The department said many of the new jobs were associated with the once-a-decade federal census.

Also, with total employment of about 1.37 million, the state still has 14,300 fewer jobs than it did in May 2009, a decline of 0.7 percent.

Outside of the Democratic governor’s administration, some skepticism remains about any economic recovery.

“That seems to be a shortsighted view of the Kansas economy,” said state House Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin Yoder, an Overland Park Republican. “This Kansas economy is really struggling.”

Manufacturing jobs grew slightly from April to May, employing 160,100 workers in Kansas last month. But that was still 6,900 fewer jobs than in May 2009, a decrease of 4.1 percent.

Also, employment by trade, transportation and utilities firms remained slightly behind where it was in May 2009.

But the state’s overall unemployment rate was significantly lower in May than it was in May 2009, when it was 7 percent.

Also, the number of claims for unemployment benefits was significantly lower in May than in May 2009. Initial claims dropped nearly 28 percent over the year, to about 14,500 last month.

And the department still saw the gain in jobs from April to May as significant. It said normal seasonal trends — such as construction companies and recreational businesses ramping up hiring for the summer — couldn’t account for about 5,300 jobs.

“It’s, overall, a positive sign,” said department spokeswoman Kathy Toelkes. “It is growth, as opposed to losses.”


The Kansas Department of Labor’s report: www.dol.ks.gov/LMIS/pubReview/pr1006/pr1006.html

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