TOPEKA — The December holiday season offered a gift to Kansas workers in the form of a sharp drop in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate to 3.8% that was driven by growth in private-sector jobs, officials said.
Brett Flachsbarth, acting secretary at the Kansas Department of Labor, said Friday the Kansas unemployment rate tumbled from 5.1% in November. He said the state’s jobless number was “significantly higher” than the 3.1% pre-coronavirus level reported in December 2019.
Kansas’ labor force stood at 1.5 million last month, with 1.44 million people holding down a job and 57,000 dealing with unemployment. Kansas had 60,200 fewer nonfarm jobs in December 2020 compared to December 2019. Economic disruption linked to COVID-19 helped inspire a decline of 45,100 private-sector positions and 15,100 government positions between those year-to-year benchmarks.
The jobless rate in December among the state’s 105 counties ranged from a low of 1.4% in Clark and Hamilton counties to a high of 4.4% in Sedgwick and Neosho counties. The four other counties with rates of 4% or above were Atchison at 4.2%, Shawnee and Sumner at 4.1% and Wilson at 4%.
More than 40 counties in Kansas registered an unemployment rate last month above 3%. Kingman and Douglas counties came in at 3.9% and were narrowly trailed by Butler and Chautauqua counties at 3.8%.
In December, the number of nonfarm jobs in Kansas expanded by 2,300 compared to November. A subset of that total — private-sector employment — grew by 4,500 jobs. That was offset by evaporation of 2,200 government jobs.
“Multiple industries contributed to this growth, with the largest gains in the retail trade industry,” said Emilie Doerksen, an economist at the state labor department. “Some of these gains were offset by a decline in the accommodation and food services industry, which has been significantly impacted by the pandemic.”
Since March 15, the state Department of Labor has paid out 3.9 million weekly claims to the unemployed. Assistance through the state’s regular unemployment program and supplemental federal assistance has totaled $2.6 billion during the pandemic.
In December, Congress approved and the president signed a bill providing adults a $600 stimulus check and delivered a $300 per week unemployment boost due to remain in place through mid-March.
Flachsbarth, the state’s acting labor secretary, said the additional federal financial support would bring “much-needed relief to eligible claimants.”
From May 2019 to February 2020, labor officials say, the state’s jobless number sat at 3.1%. It fell to 2.8% in March before surging to 11.9% in April as the coronavirus made an impact. It fell during the next six months: May, 10%; June, 7.5%; July, 7.2%; August, 6.9%; September, 5.9%; and October, 5%. That was followed in November with an increase to 5.1%.