Kansas' unemployment rate declined to 6.4 percent in October, though a state labor analyst cautioned Friday that the job market remains weak.
The new report revealed there were 22,815 initial claims for unemployment benefits in October, an increase of 5,300 from September and 5,500 more claims than were filed in October 2008. The 6.4 percent jobless rate was down from a revised 6.8 percent in September.
For the month, there were 11,700 new jobs in Kansas, rising to 1.34 million. But the figure was still 57,700 below October 2008. Most of the gains were in seasonal jobs, though some growth was seen in government, education and health services.
Inayat Noormohmad, an analyst for the Kansas Department of Labor says the over-the-year job losses are significant.
"While we're seeing improvements in some economic indicators, we know recovery in the job markets remains uncertain for the near future," he said.
The labor department said 163,700 Kansans were continuing to receive unemployment benefits, a drop of 16,450 from September, but still nearly 84,000 more residents than in October 2008.
Manufacturing jobs are down in Kansas by 13.6 percent over the past 12 months, with most of the losses in durable goods manufacturing, specifically aerospace. That trend is expected to continue in part because of the announcement by Hawker Beechcraft that it was closing its production facility in Salina, eliminating about 240 jobs. The plant builds wings, spar assemblies and other subassemblies.
The bleak outlook meshes with the conclusions reached Nov. 5 by a group of state economists and policy-makers who examined future Kansas revenue collections. They determined that the effects of the economic slowdown were still being felt in Kansas and would likely have a hold on the state economy into 2010.
As a result, the group lowered the forecast for state revenue collections by $235 million. The bulk of collections come from individual income taxes, which have dropped with layoffs and continued weakness in the job market. Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson is expected to announced further reductions in state spending in the coming weeks to balance the 2010 state budget.
"While this number indicates some good news for some families, there are still thousands of Kansans out of work as we approach the holidays," Parkinson said. "That's why we remain focused on balancing the budget and get the economy back on track."