When it comes to unemployment statistics, it appears to be location, location, location.
While Western Kansas typically has a reputation of having fewer people and fewer jobs, it is not necessarily true.
The lowest unemployment rate as of December 2008 was in Haskell County, located in the southwestern part of the state, and was 2.4 percent.
Marion County was 4.1 percent — higher than some neighboring counties but lower than others, and remained below the state average of 4.9 percent.
The highest rate was in Wilson County at 7.5 percent.
According to Kansas Department of Labor, Kansas businesses gained 800 jobs in 2008 but government added 7,500 jobs. Most of the gains primarily were due to additions in local governments.
Statewide, the December unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, an increase from 4.8 percent in November and up 4 percent from the previous year.
There were 37,482 initial claims for unemployment benefits in December, up from 18,212 claims in December 2007.
So, what is the climate in Marion County? Judging from the number of classified advertisements in any given newspaper, health care positions and truck drivers continue to be in demand.
In November and December, area manufacturers laid off employees in an effort to reduce costs.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom.
“There are 17 people signed up for assistance in starting a business in Marion County,” said Marion County Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman, regarding a program available through Kansas Small Business Development Center. “I’m very encouraged by those numbers.”
Clint Seibel, director of Hillsboro Ventures, Inc., has been doing a survey of Hillsboro businesses. Thus far, he has talked with 10 businesses.
“Almost without a doubt, businesses are not reporting what has been told on national news,” Seibel said. “Some businesses depend on selling their products out of the area and have had some minor layoffs. They’re anticipating hiring back those employees.”
Some Hillsboro companies are hiring now — particularly those that are agriculture-related.
“Winter-time is naturally slow,” Seibel said.
Perception often dictates the state of the economy. He continued the community is anticipating the construction of a new hospital, the USD 410 and Tabor College athletic field project and a new facility for Midway Motors.
“When people see the turning of dirt, positive attitudes are turned,” Seibel said. “We’re cautiously optimistic. Only time will tell.”
Doug Kjellin, City of Marion Economic Development Director, is optimistic.
“There have been people who have lost their jobs but we’re bringing in jobs,” he said. “Two new businesses are coming to Marion.”
Kjellin continued, saying the Midwest can weather difficult economic times and people know how to make ends meet.
“I look at things differently. This is an excellent time for individuals to invest and to invest their communities,” he said.
The situation in Peabody is different because there is a significant number of residents who work in Wichita.
“There are some local residents who have been laid off or anticipated being laid off,” said Peabody Main Street Executive Director Shane Marler. “The trend in Peabody isn’t bad. It takes time for situations on the coasts to reach us here in the Midwest.”
“It eventually could trickle down to us,” Marler said.