The October unemployment rate in the Wichita area fell to 7.8 percent from 8.2 percent in September, in figures released today by the Kansas Department of Labor.
The month saw a slight decline in the number of people available to work, about 308,600, and a slight increase in the number those working, 284,700. The result was a small shrinkage in the number of unemployed — about 23,900 in October and 25,300 in September.
The October rate is also lower than the 8.1 percent rate in October of 2009.
The state unemployment rate was 6.4 percent in October, down from 6.7 percent in September, but the same as October 2009.
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The rate for other Kansas metros: Lawrence, 5.5 percent in October and 6.7 percent in September; Topeka, 6.6 percent, and 7 percent; Kansas counties of Kansas City, 6.9 percent and 7 percent; Manhattan, 4.8 percent and 5.2 percent.
The fall in the Wichita-area rate is good news, said Malcolm Harris, a professor at Friends University.
"This is the sixth straight month that it is lower than a year ago," Harris said. "But the progress seems to be flattening out. That gives us some uncertainty for the future."
Harris said he thinks that small businesses have slowed hiring because of uncertainty over the fate of Hawker Beechcraft, taxes, regulation and health care costs.
On the plus side, he said, world trade is strong, which tends to help Wichita's strong exporting economy.