Slowdown socks Wichita-area work force

The number of people in the Wichita area filing for the first time for unemployment benefits surged to nearly 5,700 in January, signaling that the business slowdown is beginning to hit the work force hard.

The number of workers filing was more than twice as many as in December, and five times as high as was typical in the first half of 2008.

"We're seeing the front end of a wave of increased unemployment in this region," said Keith Lawing, executive director of the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas.

There is a bit of good news: The work force alliance is set to receive between $2.6 million and $2.9 million from the federal stimulus package within 30 days.

In all, the alliance, which serves as the main conduit for federal money to local employment and work force training programs, will spend $5.5 million in 2009 on job creation and job training for laid-off workers.

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