County unemployment down

Monday, October 26, 2009

Signs of progress are being shown as the Bourbon County unemployment rate declines below the Kansas average.

Nearly one year after the closing of Superior Industries International, which left about 600 employees from area counties jobless last December, the unemployment rate in Bourbon County has shown a decrease in September, according to Fort Scott Director of Economic Development Dale Bunn. Although the state had a net loss of 59,700 jobs in the past year, the September 2009 unemployment rate was 6.9 percent, down from 7.2 percent in August, he added.

"In Bourbon County, September unemployment fell to 6.5 percent, below the statewide average," Bunn said.

Not only had the unemployment rate decreased, it is lower than that of surrounding counties. Linn County's unemployment rate is 8.4 percent, Allen County's rate is 7.8 percent, and Crawford County's rate is 8.1 percent.

"Bourbon County, which is primarily driven by Fort Scott performance, has the lowest unemployment in the area," Bunn said.

The decrease was made possible, in part, by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which helped created jobs for the recent street and sidewalk improvements in Fort Scott, such as the work on National Avenue, the Streetscape Project, and the paving of 10th and 18th streets.

"We have taken advantage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is part of the Federal stimulus awards," Bunn said.

Bunn said the City of Fort Scott is working with the Kansas Department of Commerce to offer job training funding to help individuals gain the skills for new jobs. Steve Buerge, president of the Bourbon County Economic Development Council, has also been working with KDOC to determine what is best for local employers by listening to their concerns.

"Our intent has been to listen to their needs and act in whatever way we have the resources," Bunn said. "Local credit goes to the management of our employers. They and their workforce are highly productive -- they were already lean in operation. Their markets are also generally better positioned to be in more solid demand through this kind of a period than the volatility of luxury goods or aircraft."

Statewide, most major industries reported over-the-year losses through September. The largest has been in manufacturing which lost 26,400 jobs over the year, a 14.1 percent decrease. The majority of losses in this industry were in durable goods manufacturing, specifically in aerospace production, according to Bunn.

According to Bunn, there were 17,501 initial claims for Kansas unemployment benefits in September 2009, down from 20,677 initial claims for August and up from 12,703 in September 2008. A total of 180,202 people continued claims for unemployment benefits in September 2009, down from 222,219 in August and up from 109,253 in September 2008.