Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wichita's Unemployment Rate Falls Compared to Last Year

The Kansas Department of Labor gave us new evidence that Wichita is continuing on its slow road to economic recovery.  Dan Voohris reported in the Eagle, "The unemployment rate in the Wichita area fell in February to 8.4 percent from 8.7 percent in January, according to the Kansas Department of Labor.
It was also below the rate of 8.9 percent in February 2010."   It is prudent to compare the new data for February with February a year ago since the data have a strong seasonal swing.

Voohris quoted Friends University finance professor and Mammon Among Friends blogger, Malcolm Harris, as saying, "'We're seeing a trend, and that trend is in the right direction'...But, he cautioned, 'we've got a long way to go.'"

This theme was taken up by the Associated Press.  Referring to Wichita, the wire service reported: "The falling unemployment rate in Wichita shows an improving jobs trend in this aviation manufacturing hub that was hard hit by the economic downturn."

Dan Voorhis found evidence that the demand for temporary workers has been strenghthening which is often a harbinger of increased demand for permanent workers.  From the Arnold Group's Phillip Hayes, Voohris learned that in February hours worked by temporary workers were up 85 compared with a year ago. "Demand started to increase in April and continues to do so." He learned from Hayes that "The conversion of those temporary workers to full time, though, is just beginning."  Naturally enough, "Employers are reluctant to convert temps to regular employees in case demand drops."  

Particularly encouraging is that Hayes "is seeing the strongest demand for manufacturing workers."  Is that a further sign that the aircraft industry is reviving or might this be a sign that other sectors are taking the lead?  The data are not telling. Boeing and Airbus have both increased their production rates for their single aisle mainstays.  Nationally aerospace employment has gone up more often then not these last eight months. While that may be a straw in the wind and the wind seems to be blowing in the right direction, but it is a pretty wimpy breeze by Kansas standards.

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