The Kansas unemployment rate hit another milestone in the December numbers, released late Monday night. Unlike the past few years, the milestone is positive.

The Kansas unemployment rate hit another milestone in the December numbers, released late Monday night. Unlike the past few years, the milestone is positive.

The Kansas unemployment rate in December 2011 fell below 6 percent for the first time in more than two years. Unemployment in the state now sits at 5.9 percent, down from 6.0 percent in November 2011 and down from 6.4 percent in December 2010.

Even state administrators found the data to be good news.

“The continued steady decline in the Kansas unemployment rate is positive news, as is the over-the-year private sector job growth,” said Karin Brownlee, Kansas Secretary of Labor. “As we start a new year, we would all hope for these trends to accelerate at a faster pace.”

Even factoring in seasonal adjustments, the numbers remained a positive sign. Seasonally-adjusted unemployment in December 2011 was down to 6.3 percent. That was down from 6.5 percent in November and down half a point from 6.8 percent in December 2010.

In fact, if anyone is to thank for the decline in unemployment numbers in December, it may as well be Mother Nature.

“Employment levels were pushed up in December partly by favorable weather conditions, which allowed construction activity to remain elevated through the end of the year, and partly by an increase in federal government hiring,” said Tyler Tenbrink, labor economist for the Kansas Department of Labor. “This helped offset lackluster increases in retail trade during the holiday season.”

Statewide, there was an increase in new claims for unemployment benefits. In December 2011, there were close to 24,000 new claims, up from 18,283 in November 2011, yet down from December 2010, which had 27,889 new claims. Furthermore, continued claims also rose to 188,082 in December 2011, up from November 2011’s 182,778 and down from 229,788 in December 2010.

Locally, Crawford and Cherokee counties each saw improvements in the unemployment rate. Crawford County’s unemployment is now at 6.8 percent, down from 6.9 percent the month before. Cherokee’s improvement was a bit more drastic, falling a half percent from 7.2 percent in November 2011 to 6.7 percent in December 2011.

Bourbon County remained the same from November to December at 6.5 percent. Allen, Neosho and Labette counties each saw a slight increase of 0.1 percent in their unemployment rates.

Woodson, Wilson and Montgomery counties each saw some improvement, while Linn County suffered a major setback, as its unemployment jumped nearly three points from 9.5 percent in November 2011 to 12.4 percent in December 2011.

Local 2011 unemployment rates
County        Nov.        Dec.
Allen              6.5        6.6
Bourbon        6.5        6.5
Cherokee      7.2        6.7
Crawford       6.9        6.8
Greenwood   6.2        6.1
Linn               9.5        12.4
Labette          8.5        8.6
Montgomery  8.8        8.6
Neosho          7.2        7.3
Wilson            9.4        9.3
Woodson        6.9        6.4
Source: Kansas Department of Labor

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 140.