PITTSBURG, Kan. — While remaining below the national average, unemployment rates increased slightly across several southeast Kansas counties in July, even as the statewide rate decreased, according to a report from the Kansas Department of Labor released late last week.

The unemployment rate across Kansas decreased from 7.5 percent in June to 7.2 percent in July. While unemployment in some southeast Kansas counties, including Bourbon, Crawford and Cherokee, remained lower than the statewide average, though, it also increased from where it had been in June. Crawford and Cherokee County each saw an increase of 0.2 percent, from 6.7 to 6.9 percent and 6.8 to 7 percent respectively, while Bourbon County saw a jump of half a percentage point, from 6.4 to 6.9 percent.

In the Pittsburg area, an increase in the unemployment rate is common in July due to seasonal hiring trends, but it is likely to decrease again when numbers for August are published, according to Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce President Blake Benson.

"I think one of the reasons is because Jake’s Fireworks typically ramps up with some seasonal hiring in the spring but then generally by July those seasonal workers aren’t needed anymore and there’s about a month lag before Miller’s [Professional Imaging] begins hiring," Benson said.

"Generally January, February and July are a little bit higher" because of seasonal hiring tendencies, he said, adding that he was "cautiously optimistic" about an improved economic situation in the next few months.

Benson said that the end of extra unemployment benefits from the federal government that were implemented at the start of the coronavirus pandemic would also likely contribute to a lowered unemployment rate.

"With that now having expired and the jury being out on what exactly the replacement could look like, I do expect that it will be a little bit easier to bring back some of those employees that may have been furloughed earlier in the year," he said.

Beyond the Pittsburg area, however, increased unemployment rates in July were widespread in other southeast Kansas counties.

Labette County saw its unemployment rate go from half a percentage point below the state average in June to matching it in July, increasing from 7 percent to 7.2 percent. Other area counties had higher unemployment rates in July than Kansas as a whole.

Montgomery County saw a modest increase from 8.8 percent in June to 9 percent in July. Woodson County went from slightly below the state average in June, at 7.4 percent, to more than one percent above it, at 8.3 percent in July.

Southeast Kansas counties including Allen and Wilson increased by a percentage point or more, from 7.2 to 8.2 and from 8.2 to 9.6 respectively. From matching the statewide average of 7.5 percent in June, Neosho County’s unemployment rate jumped by nearly 2 percent in July to 9.3 percent.

Despite the increases in unemployment rates across the region, none of the nine counties in the furthest southeast corner of the state surpassed the national unemployment rate of 10.2 percent in July.