PITTSBURG — Newly released numbers from the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate a slight increase in the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in January 2019 from December 2018, up to 3.4 percent from 3.3 percent. In the Pittsburg area, the increase in the unemployment rate during the same period appears even greater, although some of that is due to seasonal changes.

“We always see that spike in January,” said Blake Benson, president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, adding that slightly higher unemployment statistics could be expected for February and might level out in March.

Although local unemployment statistics from the KDOL are not available seasonally adjusted, increases in unemployment in Crawford and Cherokee counties were greater between December and January this year than last, however. The unemployment rate for Crawford and Cherokee counties were 3.5 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively, in December 2018. In January they jumped to 4.6 and 4 percent.

In December 2017, the unemployment rate in Crawford County was 3.5 percent and 3.4 percent in Cherokee County, according to the KDOL. In January 2018, those numbers rose to 4.2 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. So even taking into account typically higher unemployment in January, the difference was double what it was this year compared to last year for Cherokee County, and almost half a percentage point higher in Crawford County.

Benson pointed out, though, that fluctuations in unemployment numbers are to be expected.

“Job growth has been strong and unemployment has been relatively low for the last few years,” he said. In the fourth quarter of 2018, Benson said, the Pittsburg area saw its lowest unemployment rate since the 1990s.

Miller’s Professional Imaging, with offices in Pittsburg, is the nation’s largest professional photo lab and a major seasonal employer, Benson said, as a lot of its work is done during the holiday season when more people are getting photos taken for things like Christmas cards and holiday parties.

Although the January 2019 statewide unemployment rate of 3.4 percent is slightly lower than it was a year ago, when it was at 3.5 percent, and in Cherokee County in December it was slightly lower than in December 2017, in Crawford and Cherokee counties both numbers for January 2019 were higher than in January 2018, according to the KDOL.

Benson said a good resource for those seeking help finding employment in the Pittsburg area is the local office of Southeast KansasWorks at the All Aboard Center for Community Development, located 216 N. Broadway in Pittsburg.