The Kansas City metropolitan area is at full employment, at least according to economists’ consensus definition of job market health.
According to data released Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the unemployment rate for the area at 3.9 percent in November 2015. That compared with 4.2 percent in October and 4.8 percent in November a year ago.
Four percent is a typical benchmark for full employment, indicating that people who want to work can find a job. Granted, the job may be part-time, pay less than desired or lack employer-paid benefits such as subsidized health insurance, but “help wanted” signs are hanging.
The figures, calculated without statistical adjustments that take into account seasonal variations, put the Kansas City area among 322 metro areas — out of 387 studied by the bureau — that had lower unemployment rates in November 2015 than November 2014. On a similar nonseasonally adjusted basis, the national unemployment rate was calculated at 4.8 percent for last month.
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The bureau’s metro report said Kansas City area employers added 12,300 payroll jobs from November 2014 to November 2015. That was an increase of 1.2 percent over the 12 months, and it put nonfarm payrolls at 1,046,100 for the Kansas City area.
The Missouri side of the Kansas City area, representing 56 percent of the area’s workforce, added 9,500 jobs, or 1.7 percent, from November 2014 to November 2015. The Kansas side, with 44 percent of the area’s workforce, gained 2,800 jobs, or 0.6 percent, over the year.
One disappointing note for the Kansas City area was that nonfarm employment appeared to fall from October to November this year, with employers dropping about 1,200 payroll jobs over the month, according to the nonseasonally adjusted tables. When calculated on a seasonally adjusted basis, the drop looks even larger, figured at a loss of 2,200 jobs.
Nonfarm payroll employment increased over the 12 months in 294 out of the 387 metro areas studied. Nationally, the job growth rate over the year was 1.9 percent.
The unemployment report, based on statistical sampling of households, estimated that 43,800 Kansas City area residents were unemployed and looking for work in November. That was down from 46,800 in October and down from 52,600 in November 2014.
The area unemployment report does not consider the quality of jobs a person holds, and it doesn’t reflect whether a person is receiving jobless benefits, has exhausted benefits or has ever received any. It only reflects how survey questions were answered when people were asked if they were working or looking for work in the time period studied.
Among other metro areas in Kansas that are included in the report, Lawrence had an estimated unemployment rate of 2.9 percent last month; Topeka, 3.5 percent; Manhattan, 2.6 percent; and Wichita, 4 percent.
On the Missouri side, St. Joseph’s jobless rate was estimated at 3.8 percent; Columbia, 2.8 percent; Jefferson City, 3.4 percent; Joplin, 3.5 percent; Springfield, 3.6 percent; St. Louis, 4.6 percent; and Cape Girardeau, 4.1 percent.