As Kansans struggle to contact the labor office, KSN Investigates how neighboring states fare

KSN Investigates

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – KSN News has heard your complaints about long wait times on the phone. Other Kansans simply cannot get through and speak to a live agent with the Kansas Department of Labor’s Unemployment Benefits Line. KSN Investigates wanted to put our state to the test and compare it with other states in the region.

It’s a consistent message we’ve heard from the people we’ve interviewed about this very issue.

“You can’t talk to a real person at all because every time you call, the que is always full,” said Susan Leslie.

“The que is full, and you’re going to have to call back,” said David Tater, mimicking what he’s heard time and time again.

“If there’s a way that we’re able to leave a message or actually email someone who can respond or look into it, that would be great,” said Josh Tyrrell.

These are testaments of Kansans who lost their jobs during the pandemic and struggled to collect unemployment benefits after having a hard time speaking with an actual person with KDOL’s Unemployment Benefits Line.

CONTACTING OTHER EMPLOYMENT CENTERS

KSN Investigates conducted an experiment in April and May. Although it’s not scientific, we timed each call to see how long it would take to actually speak to a person. We called Kansas four different times, both in the morning and afternoon, and we never did hear from a live agent. Every single time, the automated message told us, “all call representatives are engaged with a claimant at this time, and the hold que is full.”

But we didn’t stop with Kansas. KSN Investigates also wanted to compare and contrast our state’s unemployment line to other states in our region. Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Colorado were all contacted.

Nebraska

KSN Investigates had the best luck with the state of Nebraska. After nearly four minutes of waiting on the phone, the state’s automated message took down our number and said it would call us back. And within minutes, a live agent called us back. The total time was around 15 minutes.

Every time we did get through with a live agent, we explained why we were calling and gave them the results of our experiment.

Oklahoma

The first time we called Oklahoma, it was in the morning. The line was busy, and the call forced us off the line after about three minutes. We tried again a week later but this time in the afternoon. After more than 24 minutes, we were able to speak to a live agent in Oklahoma.

Missouri

We had communication issues when we called Missouri. The first time we called was in the morning, and we stayed on the line for more than 30 minutes and didn’t hear from anyone. So we called back a few minutes later, and the automated message told us they would call us back in 17 minutes. The state did call us back within that timeframe. However, when we were trying to connect with a live agent, the call got dropped. So we tried Missouri again a week later in the afternoon. After nearly 22 minutes, we were able to speak with a live agent.

Colorado

When we called Colorado, after about four minutes of waiting, the automated message asked for our number and said it would call us back. It gave us the earliest available times. This was on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. The earliest window it made available was May 18, 2021, from 12-2 p.m. That timeframe was two weeks after we called them. So just like Kansas, we did not speak to a live agent in Colorado.

KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF LABOR RESPONSE

KSN News reached out to KDOL on the results of our experiment. It released a statement saying, “we’ll decline responding to your experiment because we aren’t intimate with what technology solutions other states have implemented and or deployed, their situation with auto-dialers, the number of agents that they have working in/supporting their call center, or the number of callers they have each day calling into the contact center.”

A spokesman did say the state is making progress when it comes to handling the number of calls it receives. The state averaged more than 153,000 calls a day on April 5, and it sharply declined to more than 41,000 on May 24.

This is why we called Kansas again on Thursday, May 27, 2021, both in the morning and afternoon, but we got the same result as the previous two times. We did not hear from a live person.

For more information on the Kansas Department of Labor, click here.


If you or someone you know is still struggling financially, the United Way puts you in contact with resources, including food banks, and potential job prospects depending on where you live.

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