Unemployment in Kansas defied the typical seasonal trend in December and increased slightly, as the number of jobless workers seeking their first unemployment benefits spiked again.


Unemployment in Kansas defied the typical seasonal trend in December and increased slightly, as the number of jobless workers seeking their first unemployment benefits spiked again.

The state Department of Labor said Tuesday those developments were additional evidence Kansas’ economy soured last year. The department also predicted many areas of the state will continue to lose jobs as the national recession continues.

The state’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in December, up from 4.8 percent in November, the department reported. The rate was only 4 percent in December 2007.

The department also reported 37,482 Kansans filed their initial claims for unemployment benefits in December. That’s more than double the 18,212 who filed their first claims in December 2007, and it was the fifth consecutive month that saw significantly higher numbers than in 2007.

Several important parts of the state’s economy — manufacturing, finance, and professional and business services — saw employment declines during the year. In fact, the number of Kansans holding nonfarm jobs remained stable at nearly 1.4 million from December 2007 to December 2008 only because of an increase in government employment.

“It’s a reflection of the overall economic slowdown,” said Inayat Noormohmad, an economist for the department. “The employment market is catching up the slowdown that has occurred in the other areas of the economy in the past few months.”

The department reported its gloomy news as the Legislature and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius continued to struggle with the state’s financial problems. They must eliminate a projected budget deficit of $186 million by June 30, but many legislators expect tax revenues to fall short of expectations, causing the gap to grow.

The rise in the unemployment rate from November to December is significant because most years, it declines, Noormohmad said. That’s because retail stores hire workers for the holidays, compensating for seasonal layoffs in construction and other industries.