The Wichita-area unemployment rate for January was 7.6 percent, up from a revised 7.3 percent in December, according to the Kansas Department of Labor.
The local unemployment numbers are not seasonally adjusted and typically rise in January as holiday workers are laid off. The number of people searching for work jumped about 1,000 in January, to more than 23,000, according to the report.
The number of people working in January actually rose slightly from December, indicating that hiring continued to outpace layoffs in the area.
“The economy nationally is starting to take off and accelerate,” Malcolm Harris, an economist at Friends University, said Monday. “And I’m expecting the national housing market to turn around soon. I think people are going to be surprised by the strong economic growth this year.”
That national growth, he said, is feeding a number of local industries, as well as the commercial aviation sector.
The strongest sectors for the Wichita area, according to the associated non-farm jobs report, was professional and business services.
The weakest sectors in the January report included transportation and retail, and hotel and restaurant work.
That echoes a national trend in which higher gas prices have led to job cuts in trucking and other transportation jobs, and in jobs reliant on consumer spending, such as retailers and restaurants.
But when comparing January with January 2011, the story is quite different.
The unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in January 2011, but how much of the drop over the past year was a real improvement is debatable.
That’s because, according to the report, roughly the same number of people were working in both Januaries: 282,000. The big difference is that about 5,000 fewer people are looking for work. They may be unemployed and sitting at home, retired or they may have left the city.
The non-farm jobs survey showed that the biggest difference between the two Januaries was a loss of nearly 4,000 government jobs, which was recouped by gains in business and professional services.
Elsewhere in the January report:
Kansas, 6.4 percent unemployment in January; up from December’s 6.0 percent; and down from 7.5 percent in January 2011.
Topeka, 7.0 percent; 6.6 percent; 8.0 percent.
Kansas counties of Kansas City area, 6.6 percent; 6.2 percent; 8.0 percent.
Lawrence, 5.6 percent; 5.1 percent; 6.7 percent.
Manhattan, 5.5 percent; 5.2 percent; 6.3 percent.