The Kansas City area has recorded the best two-month run in its unemployment rate since the recession sent the job market into a tailspin.
By DIANE STAFFORD
The Kansas City Star
According to preliminary numbers released Wednesday, the 15-county area had back-to-back jobless rates of 6.1 percent and 6.2 percent in September and October.
The last time the areas unemployment rate was lower than that for at least two months in a row was in October and November 2008, just before the recessions official onset in December 2008.
The two-month performance, coupled with strong retail sales, helps cement the notion that the economy truly is improving, despite the looming fiscal cliff and employer concerns about health insurance-related cost increases.
This is entirely consistent with an economy that is steadily improving, Frank Lenk, chief economist at the Mid America Regional Council, said of the jobless figures.
Kansas Citys job picture began to brighten markedly in mid 2011. It had been making stutter-step improvements since hitting a peak jobless rate of 9.6 percent in January 2010.
According to the preliminary, non-seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the areas jobless rate in October 2012 was more than a full percentage point lower than the 7.5 percent recorded in October a year ago.
There will be ups and downs in hiring as we move forward, Lenk said, but we expect this kind of improvement to continue over the coming year.
That expectation, of course, includes congressional action to avoid the fiscal cliff, which would force massive federal spending cuts and impose tax increases.
The small uptick in the jobless rate from September reflected the entry of nearly 1,700 more job hunters into the areas job market.
Economists generally view that kind of surge as an indication of more confidence among unemployed workers who had been disillusioned and sitting out because they thought jobs werent available.
At Johnson County Community College, where career adviser Laura Johannesmeyer convenes a job search support group, attendance by job seekers has fallen this year.
But she said shes hearing from employers and some currently employed workers who are worried that layoffs might occur if the fiscal cliff occurs.
On a lighter note, there is interviewing going on, Johannesmeyer said, though there has been a hiring lull this month, perhaps because of the holidays and the fiscal cliff concerns.
On balance, according to the Federal Reserves Beige Book report on the economy, also released Wednesday, the Kansas City area economy is showing modest improvement.
Nationally, the U.S. jobless rate was 7.5 percent in October, figured on the same non-seasonally adjusted basis as the metropolitan data.
On a seasonally adjusted basis the routinely reported measure for the national figures the national unemployment rate was 7.9 percent for October.
The bureaus metro area calculations lag the national numbers by about a month. National data for November are due to be published Dec. 7.
Though the Kansas City areas unemployment trends are better than the national average, the area lags comparatively in job creation.
The statistics bureau said Wednesday that nonfarm payroll employment totaled 999,500 for the Kansas City metro in October. That was a 0.7 percent increase over the year compared with the national job gain of 1.4 percent.
The Kansas City office of the statistics bureau said the Kansas side of the metro area gets the greater share of credit for job creation over the year.
The seven-county Kansas side of the metro area, with 44 percent of the areas workforce, gained 4,100 jobs from October 2011 to this October.
The eight-county Missouri side, with 56 percent of the workforce, added 2,400 jobs over the year.
The bureaus job-growth data fit the areas reputation as a professional and service center.
The professional and business service sector gained a net 9,500 jobs over the 12 months. That was a job-growth rate of 6.1 percent, which far outpaced the national comparison of 2.9 percent for that occupational sector.
Two job sectors lost jobs locally over the year. The construction, mining and logging sector dropped 2,200 jobs, and the information sector shed 1,600.
Unemployment rates, this October versus last
|Oct. 11||Oct. 12|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
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