Business

Wichita-area jobless rate holds steady at 8.1 percent

Hundreds of job seekers line up at booths at the National Career Expo at Century II on Tuesday. (April 6, 2010)
Hundreds of job seekers line up at booths at the National Career Expo at Century II on Tuesday. (April 6, 2010) The Wichita Eagle

The Wichita-area unemployment rate remained unchanged in March at 8.1 percent, according to the Kansas Department of Labor.

The rate has drifted down from a high in July of 10.3 percent.

The March rate is below the 8.3 percent peak of the last recession, set in July 2003, but generally local unemployment rates this time around are about 2 percentage points higher than in 2002 and 2003.

That's in line with the most recent forecast from the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University, said the center's director, Jeremy Hill.

Jobs will continue to fall through early summer, Hill said, before leveling out.

"Unemployment could even go up and that would be a sign of improvement, as more discouraged workers re-enter the work force," he said.

He said he is watching for a rise in the labor force — the number of people eligible for work, whether they have a job or not — as a sign the employment situation is turning around.

A breakdown in the employment numbers from February showed that about two-thirds of the nearly 17,000 area jobs lost in the past year occurred in aircraft industry.

About 1,500 construction and 1,000 clerical jobs have disappeared, while wholesale, retail, technical, warehousing, hotel and information sectors have each lost about 500 jobs.

Other parts of the state fared better with unemployment: the Kansas counties of the Kansas City metro, 7.6 percent; Topeka, 6.9 percent; Lawrence, 5.6 percent; and Manhattan, 5.3 percent.

The state rate was 6.9 percent.

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