End of long-term jobless benefits should drive Wichita unemployment rate lower, experts say

The end of the federal long-term unemployment compensation program will help lower the Wichita area unemployment rate – now at 5.1 percent – by 0.1 percentage points, according to a new estimate.

The Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University, using a study from the Brookings Institution, figured that ending the program means about 80 percent of 1,251 Wichita-area workers who lost long-term unemployment benefits will keep looking for work, meaning they remain classified as unemployed.

But another 14 percent will disappear from the labor force by retiring, going on disability, finding work outside the regular economy, leaving the area, going back to school or just staying home.

And about 6 percent will get jobs.

That lowers the unemployment rate by reducing the number of people seeking work, the center said.

The extended benefits for unemployed Americans ended in late 2013 after Congress failed to approve spending for the additional benefits, which were approved during the recession.

For Wichita, the center said, the study’s estimates would mean about 175 people would leave the labor force, while about 75 would find work.

While the number of people working in Wichita has been fairly stable – bouncing between 279,000 and 285,000 – since early 2010, the number of people out of work and actively searching for jobs has continued to drift down from 26,000 to about 15,000. That has lowered the official local unemployment rate from 9.4 percent in January 2010 to 5.1 percent in December 2013.