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Jobless recovery muddled amid pandemic
Barton County higher than state average
february 2-21 jobless map
This map provided by the Kansas Department of Labor shows the unemployment figures across the state for February.

TOPEKA – The recovery in Kansas from the COVID-19-induced employment slump is a mixed bag, according to preliminary jobless estimates released Friday. Some sectors saw improvement while others continued their decline.

The numbers reported by the Labor Market Information Services division of the Kansas Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.2 percent in February. This was a decrease from 3.4 percent in January and is unchanged from 3.2 percent in February 2020. 

The February jobless number in Barton County was 4.2%, compared to 4.4 in January and 3.5% in February 2020. Out of a civilian labor force of 13,711, 13,141 were employed with 570 out of work.

“The rate of recovery accelerated in February for the leisure and hospitality industry, with Kansas employers adding 3,900 jobs,” said Acting Secretary Amber Shultz. But, “this growth was offset by losses in other industries.”

Shultz said construction saw the largest decline over-the-month falling by 3,100, which is likely the result of severe winter weather impacting the state during the reference week. Data collected for this report references the week including Feb. 12.

Seasonally adjusted job estimates indicate total Kansas nonfarm jobs decreased by 5,200 from January. Private sector jobs, a subset of total nonfarm jobs, decreased by 4,200 from the previous month, while government decreased by 1,000.  

“Kansas continues to see recovery with continued decline in the unemployment rate at 3.2 percent for February,” said labor economist Todd Rilinger. “However, the alternative measures of labor underutilization show that Kansas still has a ways to go.”

Broader measures of unemployment, including discouraged workers and individuals working part time for economic reasons, remain elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels, Rilinger said.   

Since February 2020, Kansas seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs have declined by 70,500. This change is due to a decrease of 56,500 private sector jobs and 14,000 government jobs.    

BLS revised seasonally adjusted preliminary total nonfarm jobs estimates for January downward by 1,200 jobs, from 1,364,700 to 1,363,500. Seasonally adjusted private sector jobs were also revised downward by 1,200 jobs, from 1,117,600 to 1,116,400. 

The national unemployment rate, 6.2 percent, was little changed over the month, but was 2.7 percentage points higher than in February 2020, the BLS reported Friday. Unemployment rates were lower in February in 23 states and the District of Columbia, higher in four states, and stable in 23 states. Forty-five states and the District had jobless rate increases from a year earlier and five states had little or no change.

Hawaii and New York had the highest unemployment rates in February, 9.2% and 8.9%, respectively, while South Dakota, 2.9%, and Utah, 3.0%, had the lowest rates. In total, 27 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 6.2%, 12 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 11 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.

The March 2021 Labor Report will be released on Friday, April 16.