PITTSBURG, Kan. — The unemployment rate statewide decreased by a full percentage point between August and September and even further in Crawford County — from 6.6 to 5.4 percent — where unemployment has been consistently lower than the Kansas average since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state.

“The Kansas unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent in September,” Kansas Department of Labor Acting Secretary Ryan Wright said in a press release Friday. “However it is important to note that similar to national trends, the number of individuals participating in the labor force has also declined."

Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce President Blake Benson said Monday, though, that he doesn’t see a lack of labor force participation as a major issue locally, and that one likely reason for the most recent unemployment rate decrease is the impact of seasonal hiring, which typically ramps up at this time of year.

“But we’ve also seen some local employers increase their starting wages,” he said, “so I think that that’s a good sign that our local economy is doing well despite the pandemic.”

Local health officials have done a good job of being stable and consistent, he said, in their public health orders and their messaging in response to the coronavirus crisis.

“And in business stability is huge,” Benson said, “so knowing that our county health officers have proven that they want to keep businesses open and they want to work with businesses to devise strategies that allow our economy to continue to operate gives business owners peace of mind to proceed with plans to grow.”

Benson also said that the ability not only of county health officials but also the county commissioners, city officials, education officials and other community leaders to work cooperatively together has helped the local economy to weather the pandemic.

“It’s just been very evident from the beginning that this is a team approach,” he said, “and I think that’s one of the primary reasons that our economy has continued to do well — and I also have to give a lot of credit to our local residents for stepping up their support of local businesses, knowing that they needed it this year more than ever.”