TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A report released Monday shows that the Kansas unemployment rate continues to decline.
The state Labor Department says unemployment fell to 5.7 percent in October from 5.9 percent in September. Last month's figure also is down sharply from a seasonally adjusted 6.6 percent in October 2011.
September's figure marked the first time since December 2008 that Kansas unemployment was below 6 percent.
Interim Labor Secretary Lana Gordon said she is encouraged by the latest report, which showed that Kansas has added 8,700 private sector jobs since October 2011, an 0.8 percent increase.
But a Labor Department economist said the slow pace of seasonal hiring shows a tentativeness in the economy.
"One positive sign is a decreasing unemployment rate, which improved significantly for the second consecutive month," said economist Tyler Tenbrink.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has made economic growth his administration's priority. He signed sweeping changes in the state's income tax code, which take effect Jan. 1. Among the changes are the elimination of income taxes for certain businesses and a reduction in the overall rate for individual filers.
On Monday, a task force he appointed held its first meeting. Among the goals outlined include strengthening families and improving the well-being of children. He's seeking areas for greater collaboration between state agencies, faith-based groups and other organizations to help pull children out of poverty. More than 18 percent of Kansas children live in poverty.
First lady Mary Brownback, who is serving as an adviser to the task force, opened the inaugural meeting by urging the task force to be creative in developing strategies and to avoid placing blame for problems.
"Childhood cannot be regained," Mary Brownback said. "There is no going back to lost opportunity. There is no remedy to missed development."
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