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Kansas Loses Jobs As Unemployment Rate Ticks Higher

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As the nation gained jobs during the month of July, Kansas lost them. At the same time, the state's unemployment rate also moved higher.

The number of jobs in Kansas fell by 5,600 in the month of July. The state labor department says most of those jobs – 4,600 – were in the private sector.

The job losses helped push the Kansas unemployment rate from 3.8 percent in June up to 4.1 percent. That unemployment rate is still lower than the national average of 4.9 percent, but the loss of more than 4,000 private-sector jobs in one month could be of concern to Gov. Sam Brownback. His administration views private-sector job growth as a key indicator of the health of the Kansas economy, and the state has been losing those kinds of jobs.

An industry group is blaming KDOT’s budget woes for the unemployment uptick.

Bob Totten with the Kansas Contractor’s Association says the state lost 4,400 construction jobs last year because there wasn’t money to build and repair roads.

“I daresay that if we’d put the $2.7 billion into highway construction, we’d have more jobs, and we wouldn’t see the trend right now where unemployment has gone to 4.1 percent,” he says.

Totten says he’s seeing more Kansas construction workers taking jobs in Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arkansas and spending their wages out of state.

J. Schafer is the News Director of Kansas Public Radio at the Univeristy of Kansas. He’s also the Managing Editor of the Kansas Public Radio Network, which provides news and information to other public radio stations in Kansas and Missouri. Before joining KPR in 1995, Schafer spent 10 years as a commercial radio and TV newsman. During his career, he's filed stories for nearly every major radio news network in the nation including ABC, NBC, CBS, AP, UPI, the Mutual Broadcasting System, NPR and the BBC. This seems to impress no one. At KPR, he produces feature stories, interviews and newscast items and edits the work of others. In the fall of 2000, he performed contract work for the U.S. State Department, traveling to central Asia to teach broadcast journalism at newly independent radio stations in the former Soviet Union. One of his passions is Kansas; learning about and promoting the state’s rich heritage, people and accomplishments. Schafer gives presentations about Kansas to various organizations around the state to remind residents about our awesome history and incredible people. A native of Great Bend, he studied journalism and mass communications at Barton County Community College and at the University of Kansas. He was also an exchange student to Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany. The “J.” in J. Schafer stands for Jeremy, but he doesn’t really care for that name. He also enjoys the pretentiousness of using just a single initial for a first name!
Elle covers education for KCUR. The best part of her job is talking to students. Before coming to KCUR in 2014, Elle covered Indiana education policy for NPR’s StateImpact project. Her work covering Indiana’s exit from the Common Core was nationally recognized with an Edward R. Murrow award. Her work at KCUR has been recognized by the Missouri Broadcasters Association and the Kansas City Press Club. She is a graduate of the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism. Elle regularly tweets photos of her dog, Kingsley. There is a wounded Dr. Ian Malcolm bobblehead on her desk.