Local jobless figures remain flat for July

The July unemployment rate in the Wichita area was 7.9 percent, unchanged from the June rate.

In fact, almost of all of the statistics in the July employment report were the same as the month before: the number of people working, the number of people looking for work and the number of people employed in most of the various sectors.

And that makes the economists at the Kansas Department of Labor uneasy.

"This really low growth increases the chance that we are entering a more stagnant period," said labor economist Yuan Gao.

That sluggish momentum is something that Dilman Morris, vice president of Horton's Furniture, sees first hand.

Sales at Horton's this year are considerably better than in 2010, but have come in fits and starts. Overall, he said, sales are just too inconsistent to hire more people.

"July was an excellent month for us, but the first day of August, it seemed like a tap was turned off, and that's the way it's been all year," he said.

"I'd just like to see a little more sustained continuity. It's all about consumer confidence, or the lack of."

But local economist Malcolm Harris had a more positive take on the number.

July, he notes, usually sees the year's highest unemployment rate because of school employees and students looking for work. That wasn't true this year.

And last month's rate is a considerable improvement over the 9.0 percent rate of July 2010, he said.

The weak recovery locally and nationally is understandable, he said, because only manufacturing has really recovered. The construction sector typically contributes to a recovery, but is still shrinking in this downturn.

For Wichita, that's good news.

"We will see more of a local recovery because we have such a large manufacturing base," he said. "I'm quite happy with the number."