Kansas unemployment settles at 5.9% in September, half April tally driven by COVID-19

State and federal reports indicate the unemployment rate in Kansas fell to 5.9% in September, a drop of 1 percentage point from August and a reduction from a rate of 11.9% in April at height of the COVID-19 economic shutdown. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
State and federal reports indicate the unemployment rate in Kansas fell to 5.9% in September, a drop of 1 percentage point from August and a reduction from a rate of 11.9% in April at height of the COVID-19 economic shutdown. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas has recovered nearly half of 144,000 jobs lost during March and April when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a statewide economic collapse depriving people of the accustomed level of job opportunity, officials said Friday.

The September unemployment rate in Kansas was pegged at 5.9%, a decline of 1 percentage point from August and below peak joblessness of 11.9% in April. The September figure was nearly twice the pre-coronavirus rate of 3.1% in February and more than double the 2.8% rate in September 2019.

The U.S. unemployment rate for September stood at 7.4%, a drop from 14.7% in April.

Emilie Doerksen, an economist at the Kansas Department of Labor, said the employment landscape in Kansas was rocked in September by evaporation of 6,300 government jobs.

Emilie Doerksen, an economist at the Kansas Department of Labor, says both the private sector and government employment fell in September. The jobless rate for the month was 5.9%, down from the COVID-19 peak of 11.9% in April. (Submitted)
Emilie Doerksen, economist at the Kansas Department of Labor, says both private sector and government employment in Kansas fell during September. The state’s jobless rate for the month was 5.9%, down from the COVID-19 peak of 11.9% in April. (Submitted)

In addition, the loss of 900 private-sector positions was reported during the month. Declines outside government were concentrated in the categories of construction, financial services, transportation and utilities, and other services. Four sectors reported improvement, with the largest movement tied to addition of 1,200 jobs in the education or health fields.

“Widespread job growth seen in Kansas throughout the summer slowed in September, with losses in both the private sector and government jobs,” Doerksen said.

Since March 15, Kansas has paid 2.8 million weekly claims for regular unemployment and federal pandemic programs. So far, $2.1 billion in jobless assistance has been pumped into the state’s economy.

Kansas lost 144,000 jobs by April as government, business and industry responded the threat of coronavirus. In five subsequent months, state officials said, 48.7% of jobs had returned.

The preliminary report from the state Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed Kansas was influenced by a national trend in which fewer people participate in the labor force, said Ryan Wright, secretary at the state’s labor department.

There were 1.38 million Kansans with jobs during September, which was 55,000 fewer than reported by state and federal officials one year ago.

In Kansas, the leisure and hospitality industry last month employed 17,100 fewer people than one year earlier. Other one-year declines: manufacturing, down 10,100; professional and business services, 6,200; health and education, 5,800; other services, 4,200; financial activities, 3,200; and information, 1,900.

The average number of hours worked by Kansans with jobs in the private sector was 33.9 per week, a decline of 1.1 hours from September 2019.