The July unemployment rate in the Wichita area hit 8.4 percent — worse than June, but much better than the 10.3 percent in July 2009.
The increase from 8.0 percent in June doesn't worry some experts. The unemployment rate typically rises in July as thousands of students and school staff enter the work force looking for jobs.
Instead, they say, the July numbers suggest that the area's employment and unemployment levels continue to be relatively stable over the past six months.
But the July number also suggests that a large number of people have left the work force, either too discouraged to look for work or having left the area. There were about 13,000 fewer people who say they are working or seeking work in July than a year ago.
The unemployment rate remains below the national average of 9.5 percent but well above the state average of 6.9 percent.
Economist Malcolm Harris, a professor at Friends University, said he sees encouraging economic trends that will soon translate into better employment.
"I can see the unemployment rate in the fall closer to 7 percent than where it is now," he said.
He points to strength in commercial aircraft construction and a general demand for Wichita-made products in other parts of the globe.
"I don't see a double-dip recession, either here or nationally," he said. "It's too late for one to start. They need to happen within 12 months."
At the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, executive director Keith Lawing said there has been a change in the atmosphere.
"Last time at this year, there was no hiring," he said. "Now, it's different. We're seeing some of our people actually find work, although not at a pace to make up the job losses we've had."
The alliance has overseen large grants for retraining laid-off aircraft workers, some of whom have been hired.
"I'm optimistic overall," Lawing said, "although full recovery is a ways off."
Unemployment rates elsewhere in the state are: the Kansas portion of Kansas City, 7.1 percent; Topeka, 6.8 percent; Lawrence, 6.4 percent; and Manhattan, 5.6 percent.