Kansas unemployment rate slides to 2.6%, lowest rate in more than a decade

Updated: Mar 18

The Kansas unemployment rate dropped to 2.6% in January, the lowest level during the governorship of Laura Kelly and the lowest rate in more than a decade. The state’s jobless rate surged to 12.2% in 2020 at outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas unemployment rate declined in January to 2.6%, federal and state agencies said Friday, to the lowest level in more than a decade.

The COVID-19 pandemic hijacked the nation’s economy in April 2020 to drive the jobless rate in Kansas to an astonishing 12.2 percent. It was above 5 percent for six months, before sliding to 4.7 percent by October 2020. The gradual decline placed the figure at 3.8 percent by January 2021 and 2.9 percent in October 2021.

In the latest report from the Kansas Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s unemployment rate hit 2.6 percent in January. There were 39,000 Kansans without a job last month, a sharp decline from 56,000 unemployed in January 2021.

“Kansas started 2022 with strong job growth, with estimates showing 8,500 jobs added in January,” said Amber Shultz, secretary at the state Department of Labor.

In the pre-pandemic period of the Kelly administration, the unemployment rate in Kansas was stuck at 3.1 percent for 13 consecutive months. It has now been below 3.1 percent in each of the five months from September to January.

Kelly’s predecessor, Gov. Jeff Colyer, led the state for one year while the unemployment rate ranged from 3.2 percent to 3.4 percent. He replaced Gov. Sam Brownback, who resigned to work for President Donald Trump.

Brownback was elected in a post-recessionary period with a January 2011 unemployment rate of 6.8 percent. Under his leadership, the rate progressively declined to 3.5 percent.

Emilie Doerksen, an economist at the state Department of Labor, said the January report indicated the state’s unemployment rate continued a downward trend to territory below pre-pandemic levels in part because the labor force participation rate had dropped in Kansas. The workforce stood at 1.5 million in January 2020, but was at 1.49 million in December.

In the report for January, Kansas nonfarm payroll employment climbed by 8,500 from December. The private-sector job figure increased by 5,100 over the month as government employment went up by 3,400.

Since January 2021, Kansas seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs increased by 17,100. This change is due to an increase of 16,200 private sector jobs and an increase of 900 government jobs.

This article was used by permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.kansasreflector.com.

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