May was a bad month for the Wichita area’s unemployment rate which jumped to 6.6 percent after falling to 6.0 percent in April, according to the Kansas Department of Labor.
About 1,900 fewer people worked during the month, about 282,800 compared about 284,700 in April.
And about 1,900 more were seeking work – 20,000 compared to about 18,100, according to the state.
The numbers are not adjusted for seasonal changes in employment.
The May unemployment rate is an improvement over the 6.7 percent rate of May 2012, which continues the long-term trend of a falling unemployment rate from its 10.6 percent peak in July 2009. However, the number of people actually working hasn’t changed much in the Wichita area in the last three years.
The area includes Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey, Sumner and Kingman counties.
Another set of data shows that non-farm jobs in the Wichita area actually increased by about 600 from April to May. The biggest gains were seen in the restaurant and hotel industries and oil production and services. The big losers were the retail and government sectors.
Jeremy Hill, director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University, said he wasn’t alarmed by the sharp rise in the May unemployment numbers.
There is a traditional seasonal uptick in unemployment between April and May, although, he said, not usually this high.
And the April rate may simply have been lower than it should have been, he said. The March rate was 6.7 percent.
His own center’s calculations show the local economy continuing to improve, although slowly.
Hours worked and people’s earnings have increased in recent months, he said.
And a series of leading indicators show slight improvement over the next six months as well, he said.