Unemployment in Kansas rose slightly in August, but Gov. Mark Parkinson said Tuesday that a modest gain in jobs over the previous year showed that the state's economy is improving.
The state Department of Labor reported that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.6 percent last month, compared with 6.5 percent in July. The rate was 7.2 percent in August 2009.
The adjusted rate takes seasonal fluctuations in employment into account. For example, Kansas lost about 1,100 jobs in August, but state officials say some losses are normal. Had the data not been adjusted, the state's unemployment rate would have dropped slightly from July to August.
Department of Labor officials were focusing most on a gain of 6,900 jobs in August compared with the same month in 2009. The employment growth was about 0.5 percent.
"This month's labor report is another indication that Kansas continues on the road to recovery," Parkinson said in a statement. "For the second straight month, Kansas businesses are seeing job growth during the course of the year, and our unemployment rate remains one of the lowest in the country."
In July, employment was 0.1 percent higher than it had been in July 2009, the first time since October 2008 that Kansas hadn't seen a lower figure.
Just hours before Parkinson released his statement and the Department of Labor released its employment report for August, Cessna Aircraft announced a new round of layoffs because of what its chief executive officer called the "lackluster" economy. Cessna said it would cut 700 jobs, in addition to the 8,000 lost since 2008.
Construction and mining were the brightest sectors of the state's economy in terms of percentage job growth in August, compared with August 2009. The mining industry saw its employment jump 12.5 percent, adding 1,000 new jobs. Construction companies' employment was about 7.2 percent higher, with 4,300 more people employed in August than in the same month a year ago.
The largest sector of the economy - trade, transportation and utilities - also saw modest unemployment growth of 1.3 percent, adding 3,200 jobs.
But the state wouldn't have seen a net gain in jobs over the year had it not been for a 3.5 percent increase in government jobs. Government employment was 8,300 higher in August than in August 2009.
Last year, the state had multiple rounds of spending cuts to keep its budget balanced. This year, legislators increased the state's sales tax to prevent further reductions.
It's too early to tell how much effect the sales tax increase had on state government employment, said Department of Labor economist Tyler Tenbrink. A small part of the bump can be attributed to temporary census jobs for the federal government's once-a-decade count of the population, and Tenbrink noted that August sees the annual summer layoffs of graduate students employed by state colleges.
Meanwhile, manufacturing employment was slightly lower in August than in August 2009, with 1,200 fewer jobs, a decline of 0.7 percent. Other sectors saw over-the-year declines as well.
Kansas Department of Labor: http://www.dol.ks.gov