On Friday, March 6, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate in February had risen from 7.6 to 8.1 percent, as nonfarm payroll employment continued to fall sharply. As they indicated, “payroll employment has declined by 2.6 million in the past 4 months. In February, job losses were large and widespread across nearly all major industry sectors.”
During February, “the number of unemployed persons increased by 851,000 to 12.5 million . . . . Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has increased by about 5.0 million, and the unemployment rate has risen by 3.3 percentage points.” The Kiplinger Letter for the same date indicated that unemployment is “probably en route to double digits.” Counting discouraged workers who are no longer seeking work and part-time workers who would rather be working full time, the effective jobless rate tops out at just over 14 percent.
What is true on a national scale is also true, though less severely, in Kansas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains an Economy at a Glance website which offers state-by-state reporting of aggregated employment statistics. These numbers lag a bit behind the less-specific national summary statistics, but are maintained for each state’s primary metropolitan employment markets as well as for the state as a whole. The Kansas Economy at a Glance numbers, for example, include numbers for the Wichita Economy at a Glance (these numbers are for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area).
A quick reference to these reports will show you that, for Kansas, total employment contracted from 1,432,100 in August of last year to 1,420,800 in January of the present year, with the unemployment rate increasing from 4.4 percent to 5.8 percent. Still, that’s at least two percentage points below the national level. (The unemployment rate for the Midwest Region as a whole was 8.1 percent in January.)
From August through December of this past year, Wichita area employment actually grew from 298,700 to 304,100, but the rate of growth was insufficient to prevent an increase in unemployment from 14,300 to 15,800, or from 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent. While not at all good news, it does compare favorably with more dismal national numbers.