August 18, 2014

Wichita unemployment rate rises sharply in July to 6.5 percent

Wichita area unemployment rate rose from 5.9 percent in June to 6.5 percent in July

The Wichita area unemployment rate for July was 6.5 percent, well up from 5.9 percent in June,

What’s driving the rate increase is a jump in the number of the unemployed – from about 17,800 in July to about 19,900 in July – even as the number of people working in Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey and Sumner counties remained about the same, at about 286,300.

The reason for the jump may be mostly temporary, reflecting students and seasonal school employees looking for work. The July rate was not seasonally adjusted, and July often has the highest unemployment rate of the year.

Taking a longer view, the rate is coming down, but slowly. The rate peaked at 10.6 percent in July 2009 and has fallen about four percentage points in the five years since.

“While it’s a small improvement, I would’ve like it to be better,” said Malcolm Harris, a economist and professor at Friends University.

A separate monthly survey, called the non-farm jobs survey, showed that the sectors seeing the biggest gains from a year ago were health care, and restaurants and hotels.

The biggest drag on employment growth in Wichita remains the same sector that has been shrinking for more than five years: aircraft manufacturing, which has fallen from a peak of more than 42,000 in late 2008 to 25,700 in July.

For the state as a whole, the not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in July, up from 5.1 percent in June, but down from 6.0 percent in July of 2013.

The unemployment rates for other metro areas in Kansas were: Topeka, 5.6 percent; Kansas side of Kansas City, 5.6 percent; Lawrence, 5.1 percent; Manhattan, 5.1 percent.

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or Follow him on Twitter: @danvoorhis.

July unemployment rates in the Wichita area

2009: 10.6%

2010: 9.2

2011: 8.2

2012: 7.5

2013: 6.9

2014: 6.5

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