Jobless rate up slightly in county
Leavenworth County's unemployment rate has taken a slight jump. But overall, said a state official, the county is in good shape.
The county's unemployment rate climbed to 4.1 percent in December 2001, compared to 3.8 percent in December 2000.
Bill Layes, chief of the labor market information services for Kansas, said he's not overly concerned.
"There are several factors behind it," Layes said.
Among reasons for the 0.3 percent increase are job layoffs that led to smaller number of extra retail employees hired during the holidays. It also could be due to a slowdown in construction, he said.
"I understand and appreciate the fact that there were major layoffs in firms," Layes said, "It certainly has had an impact on the area."
Leavenworth County's unemployment rate falls close to the December 2001 3.7 percent for the state.
One local employer said he's been swamped with job inquiries.
"I've got a ton of applications," said Eric Gambrill, manager of B&J Country Market. "We don't even have signs posted, we took them down the end of October and I've probably received 70 applications in the last month."
Normally, Gambrill said, he would receive a maximum of 20 applications in a month.
A lot of those bringing in applications are older than 18, and almost all of them live in the Tonganoxie area, he said.
Country Mart, which has 87 employees, hired six new employees when the store doubled its size in 2001. But Gambrill said he is not hiring at this time.
Charlie Krout, a managing partner of Sonic, said he's seen a slight increase in the number of job applicants.
"Quite a few, for wintertime," Krout said. "But not what I would consider to be a lot. We probably received five or six in the last couple of weeks."
Most of Sonic's 30 to 45 employees are teen-agers, said Krout, who noted the advantage of having a restaurant near the high school.
"I've got an endless supply of teen-agers right across the street," he said.
Bill Altman, president of Community National Bank, said the bank has been receiving the usual number of applications.
Normally, he said, the number increases in January.
All in all, Altman believes the local economy is strong.
"Our consumer delinquency list, which is a typical barometer for us, is actually lower than it's been in a while," Altman said.
But on Fourth Street, Don Pelzl, owner of Pelzl's Do It Best store, said sales have been weak and the number of job applicants has been small.
The business employs a total of six part-time and full-time employees, he said.
Pelzl said he's noticed a downturn in sales in recent months.
"It's pretty slow the economy of the country in general," he said.
Bill Layes, of the state's labor market division, said he expects that counties, such as Sedgwick County, which have a large number of residents employed in aircraft manufacturing, will be hard-hit.
"And of course there's Sprint, and other signs of layoffs," Layes said. "But of all the bad news, I think we're still going to fare pretty well."
Layes said that overall, he's optimistic about the state's unemployment rate.
"We've got a 3.7 percent statewide unemployment," Layes said.
"The national rate is 5.8 percent, so in Kansas, in spite of all the bad news, we're in good shape."