A breakdown of the latest unemployment figures in Missouri suggests steady improvement. Local unemployment rates are coming down even as more people jump back into the workforce.

A breakdown of the latest unemployment figures in Missouri suggests steady improvement. Local unemployment rates are coming down even as more people jump back into the workforce.

The metro area has seen just a 0.5 percent increase in the workforce in the first 11 months of the year, reaching 1.036 million in November, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. But the area has added 28,487 jobs – a 3 percent bump – so the unemployment rate as fallen steadily, from 9.7 percent in January to 7.4 percent in last month.

Independence has seen a similar pattern: just a 1 percent increase in the workforce but 2,027 new jobs and a jobless rate that’s fallen from 10.6 percent to 8 percent. Same story in Blue Springs: a 1.7 percent increase in the workforce, an added 1,044 jobs and an unemployment rate that’s fallen from 8.8 percent to just 6.8 percent. Lee’s Summit, by the way, leads the area with a jobless rate of just 6.2 percent.


Gains in housing

Eastern Jackson County is closing out a much better year in housing than most of the metro area.

Across eight counties tracked by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City, permits to build single-family homes are down 7 percent in the first 11 months of the year, but Eastern Jackson County is up 24.2 percent.

Setting the pace are Independence (110 permits, up from 57 in the same period in 2010), Blue Springs (51, up from 44) and Lee’s Summit (127, up from 121). Grain Valley has issued 25 permits, down just one.

Those cities have helped Jackson County make an overall gain of 12 percent – Kansas City and Grandview are off sharply – while Johnson County has eked out a 4 percent gain, and Leavenworth County figures are flat. The other five counties – Clay, Cass and Platte in Missouri and Wyandotte and Miami in Kansas – are all down by double digits.


Sears, Kmart troubles

No word from Sears Holdings Corp. on whether any of its local stores will close. The company has 3,650 Sears and Kmart stores nationwide, and it said Tuesday it plans to close 100 to 120 of those. The company has a Sears store and two Kmart stores in Independence. The company has not yet listed which stores will close.