Bi-State Jobless Rates Dip Again

The February unemployment rate in Kansas fell to 4.0 percent, labor officials announced today, a figure that nearly matches the 4.1 percent figure reported in Missouri earlier this week.

The Kansas jobless rate was the lowest the state has seen since April of 2001, and marked the 40th straight month below 5 percent unemployment there. Missouri, by contrast, has now strung together 20 straight months since falling below 5 percent threshold in June 2015.

Kansas has been below 5 percent since November 2013, or 40 consecutive months since falling from its recession-era peak of 7.3 percent in July-September 2009. It was the lowest rate Missouri has seen since hitting that same 4.1 percent mark in April 2001.

While economists have wide-ranging views about what constitutes full employment, the figures from Missouri and Kansas are getting quite close to generally accepted thresholds on the low end, and are even below some of those on the higher end. The question some have posed is why, if we’re approaching technical full employment, we haven’t seen kinds of inflationary pressures generally associated with it.

One likely answer: The unemployment rate most often reported varies substantially from the U6 rate that many economists say is a more accurate indicator of employment health, because it includes part-time workers who would prefer to have full-time jobs. And in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that figure was still standing a stubborn 9.7 percent–more than twice the “official” unemployment rate for the nation overall.