Kansas unemployment stagnates at 2.4 percent

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Lt. Gov. David Toland, with a campaign platform that emphasizes economic development, have presided over an economy that reduced the jobless rate to 2.4 percent. GOP gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt criticized loss of private sector jobs in Kansas during April. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — The Kansas unemployment rate hovered at 2.4 percent in April with more than 35,000 residents of the state searching for a job, state and federal officials said Friday.

Preliminary estimates by the Kansas Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed a decline in joblessness from 3.5 percent in April 2021. The agencies reported employment in Kansas reached 1.46 million last month, an increase of 22,900 in the past year.

“While the unemployment rate remained steady at 2.4 percent over the month, it has seen significant improvement over the year as more Kansans move from unemployed to employed,” said Amber Shultz, secretary of the state Department of Labor.

April unemployment rates of Kansas’ neighboring states came in at Nebraska, 1.9 percent; Oklahoma, 2.7 percent; Missouri, 3.4 percent; and Colorado, 3.6 percent.

The campaign for Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is a candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor, said Kansas had recovered three-fourths of jobs lost early in the COVID-19 pandemic while the U.S. economy as a whole regained 94 percent of those jobs.

The level of nonfarm employment in Kansas grew by 500 in April, but expansion was driven by addition of 600 government jobs. Gains in some sectors of the state’s economy were mostly offset by declines elsewhere, state labor officials said, including in professional and business services.

“Last month,” Schmidt said, “our state added 600 government jobs but lost 100 private sector jobs. Not good. Kansas needs to grow our state, not our government.”

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who is seeking reelection in November, has been campaigning on a message of success in terms of investment in economic development.

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in 2020 under Kelly, the state’s unemployment rate surged in April 2020 to 12.2 percent, the number of unemployed exploded to 181,462 and the number of people with jobs slipped to 1.3 million.

After one year in April 2021, the statistics for Kansas moderated to a 3.5 percent unemployment rate, 51,615 unemployed and 1.44 million employed. The April 2022 report: 2.4 percent unemployment, 35,374 jobless and 1.46 million employed.

For comparison, here are five-year and 10-year retrospective numbers while Republican Gov. Sam Brownback was in office: April 2017 had a 3.6 percent unemployment rate, 54,332 unemployed and 1.43 million employed; April 2012 had a 5.8 percent unemployment rate, 86,551 unemployed and 1.4 million employed.

Federal officials said U.S. employers added 428,000 jobs in April to cap a year of solid growth and adding to the robust recovery. The U.S. unemployment rate remained steady at a pandemic low of 3.6 percent. Unemployment fell in April in 13 states and the District of Columbia, but was stable in 37 states.

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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